A day after MLS withdrew FC
Dallas from the MLS is Back Tournament following an outbreak of Covid-19 that resulted in 10 FC Dallas players and one coach testing positive, FC Dallas coach Luchi Gonzalez talked about the
team's trip to Florida.
He talked about his values, his priorities and trust, his love for his family, the health and well-being of his players and staff, and his mix of emotions about what happened and what he thinks will come next.
After everything that has transpired over the last 10 days in Florida with everyone stuck in their rooms alone for the last week, including those who tested positive for Covid-19 in an isolation area of the resort, Gonzalez make it clear he still did not have any doubt that the tournament with 26 teams brought into a bubble in Florida should have been organized.
"This had to happen," he said of an outbreak. "Eventually there had to be this experience. Eventually. I don't know if it's a tournament in one site or it's just the league continuing home and away. I understand the reason for the tournament, we all supported this, and I continue to support it because I think it's important for the success of the league and the game. I love the game first and foremost, I love the game before any league or club. The game is what I love. And I'm so proud that it's growing in this country and the league is growing and the club is growing. I'm a big proponent of the game being successful in this country because it's my life. But it's not the priority of my thought. My priority is family, the priority of the players and their recovery and their health. That is No. 1 in every inch of my body and every thought in my mind right now. But with time the games are going to come back to be a priority for this club."
Gonzalez he doesn't know of a right time to return to play.
"Now, when is the right moment to have done this?" he said. "There is no right moment. I don't know. They could have done this when this all first started. It could be the same result. They could wait another three months. It could be the same result. When is the right moment? Maybe, the perfect or the safest moment is in two years. Maybe, the safest moment is in two years, but will the league even exist in two years? Probably not if we have to wait that long. So when is the right moment? I don't know. I just know that it could've been yesterday and it could be tomorrow, but it had to happen. It had to. At some point there needed to be a calculated risk and we all needed to go for it and we all need to go for it. And there's no regrets there. I'm sorry we're in a situation. And I'm sorry with the players that were going through this."
Gonzalez said those that have tested positive for Covid-19 are feeling strong. Some have experienced symptoms, and some things need to be taken care of, but they're feeling stronger and some are already at later end of their recovery.
"They're getting through this adversity," he said. "And so for me, that's really positive. And that makes me really proud to see our team here in this tough moment show unity, show concern, show compassion, so I don't think that there was going to be a right or wrong moment. I think it needed to happen. And there's no regrets. I'm not sorry I'm having this experience with these players because all I know it's a good learning lesson for the league or for the game and for all of the other teams. And it's a great moment for strength and unity for the players in the team and the families. That's my viewpoint of it, and I'm in the business of leading a team to play professional games."
Gonzalez said FC Dallas and its ownership, the Hunt family, has shown they care about the players and staff first and foremost as human beings.
"And it's just tough," he said, "because we're here and I love my wife. I love my kids. I'll do anything for them. So if I have my values, No. 1, I have to take care of my personal health and well being so I can be there for my family. That's No. 1, because I got to take care of myself before I can take care of my kids and my wife. No. 2, I need to take care of my kids, my wife and my family. The extension of that becomes the people that I've learned to love over the time of my life. And then No. 3, I love this game. I love this game."
Gonzalez said there are no experts with all the answers about what to do or what should have been done.
"We have to always think about those priorities and make decisions so we can go to sleep and know that we're trying our best," he said. "There's been a lack of like trust in just who is the expert in all of this. There's not an expert in this. This has existed for six, seven months. Tell me who the expert is. The expert is after analyzing this for 5-10 years, that's the expert. So it's tough to trust things, the protocols, the advice, the doctor, the medical expert, the administrator. It's hard. Then who do we trust? It's hard to trust anybody because none of us are experts in this."
Gonzalez said all you can do is trust is that everyone is trying his or her best.
"We have to trust that people are trying their best. And people are trying their best. There's going to be so much trial and error in this, and I know when we're on here [pointing to his cell phone], this is very influential. What people trust, or think, or believe. My own kids are going through things that they believe or think and they say, 'Daddy, daddy this, daddy that, did you, did we?' 'No, no, no baby, let's trust that people are trying their best.' I want to, I want to trust the experts that are trying their best. That that's what I believe in. And that's our mentality. And then experts said this tournament needs to happen now. Well, here we are. And we're learning hard lessons, but it needed to happen eventually. So maybe it is the right moment. I don't know. I'm not the experts."
Gonzalez said his players and staff are doing better emotionally.
"I would say a few days ago this squad was feeling really hurt by the situation and helpless, and there's anxiety and stress," he said. "And there's concern for each other more than the game. And so in this moment of understanding and seeing how we can help players, our staff, each other to just be strong in that moment of insecurity and in doubt, there's also this moment where you get to a point where you're just like, 'Okay, well, we don't have a choice.' It's almost one or the other. You're going to give up. You're going to quit. You're going to feel sorry for yourself. Or are you going to start to believe we're going to come out of this? And so there we are. The group has shown me that they have their eye on getting out of this. All of them, a 100 percent of the staff in the group."
Gonzalez is convinced of that but said it will take little steps.
"Getting a breath of fresh air, eventually having a team walk," he said. "I don't know if we'll have a team meal here. I don't know if that's a safe. But one day, we're going to have a team meal. This doom has helped us stay connected. It's hard because when you're in person there's energies. I'm a hugger. I haven't been able to hold any of these players for five months. And that hurts me as a leader, but I going to hug them in a different way. I have to. I had to improve my other senses. It's like when -- I don't want to make the wrong analogy -- but if you lose a sense, your sense of taste or your hearing, or part of your body, but you still have your heart and you still have your head and you have to now adapt."
Gonzalez said you need to overcompensate for the loss, whether it is temporary or long term.
"We're super-compensating right now with just love," he said. "Just love and belief and support that we're gonna be stronger after all of this. Soccer is the last thing on our minds. It's about the will to get healthy. And then soccer is going to naturally come back to us. The will is everything, but that can't guarantee us anything, but it's going to give us much more possibility and probability to come out of this stronger."