The city of Miami has yet to make its triumphant return to Major League Soccer, but the 2019 season will have a bit more 305 flare. Luis Gonzalez, bettern known as Luchi Gonzalez, was born in Hialeah and raised in Miami-Dade County. He will take over as head coach of FC Dallas, the culmination of a long journey for the Gulliver Prep product.
Gonzalez first made his mark locally with Strike Force, a Kendall-based soccer academy. The youth program, organized in 1989, was profiled in the May 12, 1991 edition of the Miami Herald. Gonzalez was on the of the players pictured.
Gonzalez would then head to Gulliver and become a standout on the powerhouse program in the mid-1990s. As a sophomore, Gonzalez would score two goals in helping Gulliver defeat Tampa Berkley, then the state’s No. 1 Class 4A program and the defending state champion. He would also be named Class 4A-1A second-team. In his junior year of 1997, he would make first-team. That summer, he would also be picked for the U.S. national team at the 1997 FIFA U-17 World Championship.
Gonzalez’s senior season was a capstone, collecting a district championship, All-Dade recognition and even being named a Parade All-American. He left Miami-Dade County as one of its most recognized soccer players ever.
“Luchi is definitely one of the top players to come through Gulliver over the years,” his coach Jorge Dieppa told the Miami Herald in 1998. “He has made a tremendous impact on the team and has been modest about it. He has never been a kid to toot his own horn. I’m going miss him next year.”‘
He eventually attended Southern Methodist University for college, building his first connection with Dallas. While with the Mustangs, Gonzalez won the Hermann Trophy, awarded to the country’s top male and female soccer players.
Gonzalez was drafted 6th overall in the 2002 MLS Super Draft by the San Jose Earthquakes, and eventually made MLS appearances with Colorado Rapids as well.
Return to Miami
Luchi Gonzalez’s return to Miami came in 2007, when he signed with Miami FC of the then-USL. Gonzalez was part of a trio of Miami-based players (Eric Vasquez and Nico Mosquera) who signed on for the club. He made 26 appearances, including a penalty-shot loss at the hands of the El Paso Patriots. Gonzalez assisted on Miami FC’s second goal in the match.
Gonzalez also earned an assist in a 1-0 victory over the Minnesota Thunder at the Orange Bowl in Miami on May 18, 2007. He and some other teammates spoke to reporter Chris Green after the match.
Following the season, Gonzalez transitioned into coaching. He took over at Felix Varela High School in November 2007. The school was coming off a Class 6A state title the following year. Gonzalez was looking to rectify the one statewide honor that eluded him in his playing career.
“It would be great to win a state championship, but more than anything I took this job because it’s a great opportunity to help these kids become better players,” Gonzalez told the Miami Herald at the time. “The wins and titles will come naturally if they continue improving as the season goes on.”
State at last
The title did come, very quickly. Luchi Gonzalez led Varela to another title, becoming only the fourth boys’ soccer team in Miami-Dade County history to win back-to-back state titles, defeating Weston’s Cypress Bay in penalties, 4-1. That team would eventually be named the No. 1 program in the country for 2008 by the National Soccer Coaches Association of America.
The successful stay at Varela wasn’t long. In 2008, he would coach Columbus to its first GMAC tournament appearance in at least 20 years, taking the Explorers to the GMAC final.
Another short stay followed. In June 2009, Gonzalez returned to Gulliver, trying to claim the state title that eluded him as a player. Again, it was close but no cigar. Gonzalez returned the program to the state championship game in 2013 after a six-year absence, but replacement Matias Asorey would take the program to the promised land the following season.
After that season, Gonzalez In 2013, joined a 16-month youth development course through the MLS and French Football Federation to earn his Elite Formation Coaching License. Upon completion, Gonzalez took over as FC Dallas’ Under-15/16 team and won three U.S. Soccer Development Academey national championships. Earlier this month, that long journey delivered him to the top spot on Dallas’ sideline. But it all traces back to the fields of Miami-Dade County.