These truly are great days for FC Dallas. Not only is Oscar Pareja’s club still unbeaten at Toyota Stadium over the past almost calendar year, but FCD remains atop the standings in the Western Conference of Major League Soccer and also leads the chase for the MLS Supporters’ Shield, awarded to the team finishing with the best regular-season record.
Dallas just hosted and WON the final of the US Open Cup on September 13th, a tournament which bears the name of FCD founding owner Lamar Hunt. FCD also recently started playing in the 2016-17 CONCACAF Champions League, an event it has only appeared in once before, in 2011.
So, understandably FCD president Dan Hunt is a happy man these days…. Let’s hear more about him:
Lifestyle Frisco: How much does it mean to win the Open Cup this season for the first time since 1997?
Dan Hunt: Well, we’ve had some heartbreakers since winning it. Having dad’s name on that trophy, winning it is absolutely spectacular. I always reflect back when the Wizards won. My dad was actually down getting cancer treatment at MD Anderson, and my brother and I were able to call my mom and dad. Telling him about winning then lifted his spirits like I can’t even begin to tell you. He was so proud of the team, and he wasn’t feeling very well at the time. That always plays in the back of my mind too, but to come so far this year… the hard work and what the guys have accomplished. It’s remarkable. It really is.
LsF: Is everything still on schedule for the Soccer Hall of Fame to open in 2018?
Hunt: We’re projecting the 2018 open and you should be seeing some major earth moving coming quickly. We’ve been working on a little bit of a design element. I’m really super thrilled, but yeah, you should see movement on the project in the next two weeks. Something I’m not looking forward to is the fact that I think it’s going to be very loud.
LsF: Did the recent sale of Fabian Castillo sort of blindside the club, specifically the fact that he wanted to leave so abruptly?
Hunt: I don’t know that it blindsided everybody. What I would say about Fabian is that he had hopes to go to Europe and it wasn’t an ideal time. Is it ever really? I think the broader conversation should be about the way the MLS season is. It doesn’t help us. And, I’ve got to be honest, I think we as a league need to figure out how to become more active in the transfer window. That tells a great story across the league. The subplot is that we’ve got to figure out how to get the transfer value of our players up. The numbers that are being paid in Europe are absolutely astonishing. I know the game very well. There are names that I do not recognize, and they’re paying obscene amounts of money for them. If MLS was able to participate at that level, this league would take off. The reinvestment in franchises and the growth of players and the names coming in and out, this league would literally explode. While we are doing great, franchise values are at an all-time high. There is more demand. You see this growth in almost every category, but if we could just participate in that element alone. The theater and drama of it is almost like its own soap opera, and it’d be great for our TV ratings.
LsF: Zach Loyd has been sidelined for some time now with concussion symptoms. How concerning is his situation?
Hunt: He’s being going through some more testing. Obviously, the blow to the head he took, that was a very dangerous play, and he was caught in a defensive position. Plus, I think ultimately his neck was bothering him a little bit from the way he landed, so we’re going through every precaution. Player safety comes first. That should have been addressed on the field at that moment in time, not from a medical standpoint, but that it was a very dangerous play for a defenseless player. I know we’re going through all the testing, and we don’t want to rush him back. I think MLS has gotten refocused on safety. Obviously, the efforts of the NFL and other leagues too, but it’s going to be of the utmost importance. There’s no need to rush him back. When he’s ready to rejoin is, we’re ready for that. We went out and signed Aubrey David, who gives us a lot of versatility. Zach has been a tremendous player at this club, and an even better person, so we’re ready to welcome him back when he feels comfortable to train again.
LsF: How happy are you with Oklahoma City being your USL affiliate and is the long-term plan still to start your own USL club here in the future?
Hunt: We’ve been talking about it and trying to work on a plan. They really need their own venue when we start a local USL team. It’s possible it could be here in Frisco. I could see something on the complex here, building a little bit more or adding bleachers to a field to make it more of a stadium. Oklahoma City’s been a terrific relationship. The coaching staff there is great, the ownership group is stellar, and our guys have seemed to go up there and flourish. It’s been a little bit of a quandary for us because in of all our games we’ve needed to use or try to use a bunch of players. Oscar [Pareja] has wanted players here in training so he can make up-to-the-minute selections on guys who are in form. But, sometimes you have to let go and let them go for extended stretches there so they can fit in and so that the coaches in Oklahoma City can count on those players. I’ve been excited for some of the guys that have gone up there like Coy [Craft]. It’s been very good to have them get the experience.
LsF: Oscar Pareja is about to finish his UEFA coaching certification, the highest level a coach can get. How much pride do you take in that fact?
Hunt: Oscar is a special person. Schellas [Hyndman] did a terrific job and this club had a ton of success getting to the final. Plus, some LH US Open success, not quite winning it, but he did a fantastic job. To be able to move on to a favorite son of this club as your head coach, it’s been amazing. I always tell him I’m so proud of him as a person. So few players can make the transition from player to being a head coach at any level of any sport, but it’s the person that he is and the belief that he can instill in the players. That’s why he’s so successful. Everybody just adores him here in the front office.
LsF: Is this the deepest roster you can remember the club having?
Hunt: It is. Interestingly, I would say the team that played in the final in 2010 actually had a very good group of players, but we didn’t use a lot of them and maybe overused them in 2011 and so the exhaustion factor set in. That coaching staff had done a very good job of assembling an excellent group of players, but here you’ve got guys who have great pedigrees, and I don’t want to name names, but have been successful other places and played a lot of matches that can’t even get into the 18. Aubrey David has done a nice job, I feel like he’s shown some good things. I’m really impressed with Getterson. He was the turning point, and I feel like in that entire game against LA they could no longer double up on Mikey [Barrios]. It created a little bit more room for Diaz and then he was in-the-box, wreaking havoc, creating chances, and really cleared space out for Victor [Ulloa] on that header. If you go back and study the tape, here’s what stands out to me on that play… Look where he lands; look at his body position; and the body language. If a ball was going to take a bounce off [Ashley] Cole, take a bounce off the goalkeeper, or take a bounce off post, he was going to bang it home. He was in a positive position to make something happen and that’s what stood out. I give Luiz Muzzi all the credit in the world on finding Getterson. The jury is still out on how successful he will be. This was only his first 30 minutes, but what stood out on his tape and his games is that he was always trying to do something positive. Everybody always wants to do well when they do something, but his body was in a positive place or he was making something good happen.