FRISCO, Texas — Before the Texas Derby on August 25, Zdenek Ondrasek had just one MLS start to his name, he hadn’t played in 16 of the 27 games up to that point, and he racked up a combined 261 minutes in the 2019 season.
But once he scored his first MLS goal the week prior against the Montreal Impact, sparking a three-goal comeback to take a crucial point on the road, “The Kobra” never looked back.
He started in six of the next seven games, scoring six goals within that stretch. Suddenly, FC Dallas had the perfect weapon at its disposal, and the Kobra’s comeback story all started with the mentality to never quit. He relayed that message to FC Dallas Head Coach Luchi Gonzalez while he was struggling to make the team sheet in the middle of the season.
“I told him that I did not fly 10,000 kilometers to give up after four months,” Ondrasek said in a recent article with the Czech Republic National Team. “I told him I would fight.”
Fast forward to October, and Ondrasek has helped his club reach the Audi MLS Cup Playoffs while earning his very first Czech Republic call-up at 30 years old. The road to get that first call-up was not easy for him, though.
Ondrasek was in very good form in the 2010 and 2011 seasons, scoring a combined 25 goals, and afterwards he departed for Norwegian club Tromsø IL. His goal numbers dropped slightly, and even when he was playing at his best, he still didn’t receive a call from the Czech Republic.
According to an article from the Czech Republic National Team, Ondrasek “had problems with his diet, smoking and playing slot machines.”
“At the moment… I didn’t think I’d be in the national team one day,” Ondrasek said.
Útočník @FCDallas Zdeněk Ondrášek má za sebou úvodní trénink v #ceskarepre 💪🇨🇿— Česká fotbalová reprezentace (@ceskarepre_cz) October 9, 2019
„Reprezentace je sen každého, vrchol všeho. Čekal jsem na to dlouho, pracoval jsem na sobě. Myslím, že je to i takový příklad, že člověk se nemá nikdy vzdávat.“ pic.twitter.com/mPIICDUoQt
Once he left Tromsø, Ondrasek went to Poland to play for Wisła Kraków, but his best season didn’t come until his final one with the club in 2018-19, where he scored 12 goals in 20 appearances.
Even though he’s found his form again within the past two months, Ondrasek’s resurgence started way before that. In training, he was working hard, and he was being a great teammate to others, including recently-signed Homegrown, Ricardo Pepi. The 16-year-old is essentially competition for the same spot as Ondrasek, but instead of just wanting to beat his teammate for a starting spot, he went out of his way to help Pepi adjust to the level of play.
In Episode 7 of FC Dallas’ Year One documentary, Gonzalez mentioned how pleased the coaching staff was with Ondrasek’s progression in August.
“I think Kobra, the last few weeks, has taken advantage of moments in training,” Gonzalez said. “He’s applied and shown things in our concepts in training that is earning him an opportunity to play recently. He’s in a good moment, and we hope he can continue. It’s a great example for a lot of our players.”
Ondrasek has become a fan-favorite in Frisco from die-hard fans to casual ones. There’s even been a cobra flag spotted in the Beer Gardens during games, and the fans really connect with the passion and fight the Kobra plays with on the pitch.
“His energy and his attitude towards everything is positive,” FC Dallas defender Reggie Cannon said. “It makes me want to fight harder for him because you feel closer to him on the field than you do without him on the field. I think that brings the team together. You can tell with his face, with his emotions and his intensity that he’s giving everything to be on that field.”
The Kobra’s first year in MLS is a tale of two halves. Nobody, except himself, would’ve guessed how important he would end up being to the team and its playoff push. Now, FC Dallas has a striker at the top of the formation ready to give no mercy to the opposition while giving everything he has for the club.
“I’m so happy here,” Ondrasek said. “It wasn’t easy, but the people here are great — my teammates, the club, the city.”