FRISCO - They’re usually the focal point of any game, the background to the biggest moments in soccer, but at FC Dallas, the goals have been left literally untouched in the first two training sessions of 2019.
While not uncommon for the team to go through the basics, conditioning and an overall slower build in the opening week of camp, the goal’s flat out exclusion from the training ground thus far is really a larger indication to the level of planning and detail Luchi Gonzalez and his staff have in building to their overall goals.
“Maybe for you guys it’s not so exciting because you're not seeing the ball hit the net,” Gonzalez joked in his camp-opening press conference, “But believe me there's an intention behind that to build fundamentals that are going to allow us to hit the net with more purpose.”
Over the first part of the preseason, you won’t be seeing small-sided scrimmages, formation drills or even attempts on target. The plan put in place focuses on building to that with a very specific purpose.
“We want to stay away from some hard, longer-range or mid-range passing with the instep, with the laces for the first few days because those start to flare up muscles that can be injured early in a process,” Gonzalez continued. “We want to get some toxins out of the legs, build an aerobic core and get them the entire touches - soft, light touches, soft passes, soft movements - so that we can then eventually get to penetration, verticality, scoring, assisting, through balls and balls in the air. We're going to build up to that, absolutely.”
The build isn’t limited to the field players, either.
In fact, a goalkeeper-specific portion held just before Tuesday afternoon’s third session will be the first time the guardians of the goal mouth will even touch a ball with their hands. In each of the first two trainings, the keepers have stood side-by-side with field players in every drill, completing the same technical work as the defenders, midfielders and even forwards.
“It's a break from how I've done things in the past,” goalkeeping coach Drew Keeshan said. “Luchi and I sat down and talked about it and discussed what we're going to need from the goalkeepers this year and it's best to give them every advantage possible to do what we need them to do on the field.”
“Keepers have to be involved in our rondos, positional possession games and technical work. It's a good evolution for what we feel is important for that position,” Gonzalez said. “We don't want to go into week two where we're doing build play or week three with build play and specific actions and movements without our keeper having a thousand touches or two thousand touches so that he is conditioned and stimulated in a way where it's not just making touches, but decisions.
“They'll get their reps in terms of shot-blocking but, if you think about, in a game the players that have the most contact on the ball are center backs and goalkeepers, so why wouldn't they be in a lot of our technical work and our rondos? That's important for us.”
UPDATE: We have goals.