FC Dallas fires head coach Nico Estévez: What’s next?

FC Dallas has fired head coach Nico Estévez, the club announced Sunday night. Assistant coach Peter Luccin will take over as interim manager as the club kicks off a coaching search.

Dallas sit second-last in the Western Conference, with just 14 points after 16 matches in the 2024 season. Estévez had been in charge since the 2022 season. Dallas made the playoffs each of the last two seasons. Estévez had been under pressure the last amid a slow start to the season. 

“It is always a difficult decision to part ways with your head coach,” FCD club president Dan Hunt said in a statement. “A great deal of thought and deliberation went into this move as it is still early in the season. We believe a coaching change is in the best interest of the club. I want to thank Nico for everything he has done for the club, including some great playoff memories.”

Estévez previously served as an assistant coach for the U.S. national team under Gregg Berhalter. Luccin, a native of France, ended his playing career with Dallas. He began working as a coach in their academy before joining Luchi Gonzalez’s first team staff in 2019. 

Dallas signed Croatian forward Petar Musa from Benfica on a club record transfer worth an initial $9.7 million plus another $3.3 million in add-ons, The Athletic previously reported, but the club were fourth-last in MLS with just 18 goals scored.

Why now?

Simply, Dallas never seemed to improve year-to-year under Estévez. In fact, they’ve arguably been the worst performing MLS team in the first half of the season when looking at the totality of their play.

FC Dallas mls metrics

(Graphic: Jeff Rueter / The Athletic)

From 2022 to 2024, their average tackles per game dropped from 15.9 to 13.6, simultaneously affording opponents an additional pass attempt per defensive action they made. It isn’t just that they weren’t sticking a foot in as often — they were allowing opponents to gain greater control over games than they were in Estévez’s first season.

Their output in possession has been even less inspiring. Only six teams take fewer shots per game than Dallas, while only two (Sporting KC and New England) had a lower average xG per shot than Dallas’ 0.086 — and both of those sides shot more often than Estévez’s. That paucity of creativity was particularly damning after the signing of Musa, who was brought in to both convert a greater share of chances into goals while affording Jesús Ferreira greater freedom to operate closer to midfield.

(Graphic: Jeff Rueter / The Athletic)

By a coach’s third season, the hope is that the roster has been adequately turned over to the point where the bulk of the squad is an ideal fit for their vision. That return on investment and patience is especially mandatory after a new club record signing. With both the defense allowing more dangerous chances and the attack failing to generate their own, there was little evidence of growth from Estévez’s first two-and-a-half seasons.

Now, a successor will have the task of sorting out whether or not more should have been expected from this Dallas squad in 2024.  — Jeff Rueter, soccer staff writer

What’s next?

FC Dallas is the third team to part ways with their manager this season, following Nashville SC (Gary Smith) and Atlanta United (Gonzalo Pineda). Neither of the previous two have named a full time head coach yet. 

Sporting director Andre Zanotta led the previous search that landed with Estévez. He will lead this coaching search again. 

Some obvious MLS names at the top of most coaching searches include Bruce Arena, Gio Savarese, Adrian Heath and Robin Fraser. Top rated assistants like Columbus’ Yoann Damet, Cincinnati’s Kenny Arena, LAFC’s Ante Razov and more are respected within the league. Former FC Dallas second team coach Eric Quill is currently head coach of New Mexico United, leading his side to top spot in the Western Conference this season.

Zanotta has already gone abroad in the previous search, so the list of realistic candidates is wide. — Tom Bogert, soccer staff writer

(Photo: Brace Hemmelgarn / USA Today)

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