DALLAS – When Weston McKinnie, Daryl Dikes and Chris Richard left American football for Europe, they had something very in common with Jesús Ferreira, Paxton Ponykal or Víctor Ulloa, just to name a few.
All of them and many more were directed in their best childhood and youth times, oriented and almost brought to professionalism by the same coach; one who has forged his name with work, but above all with experience in all categories and levels of football.
José María Bazán, 49, is the discoverer and trainer of talent for a very good part of the current generation of American footballers who shine in their country, in Europe and in various parts of the planet.
For Bazán, it has been a long road, of work and study, on and off the court, to recognize and develop talent, which has led to the greatest heights of professionalism.
“I know that after almost 25 years of experience choosing and developing youth players, having successes and failures, they make me err less and work on more important things and in detail,” said Bazán. “But I have always asked myself the question: What is a good player? How to recognize him in the youth teams? It’s a great debate.
“There is someone who defines it very well and we have passed it on to football. It is reading, interpreting, making a decision and executing. Good players go through those four steps. Reading is very easy, especially for those who played from the age of 7-8, who see where a ball is coming and know where it is going to bite, how they are going to receive it… “, he added. “Interpreting a play is more difficult; you have to do it fast. Then you have to make decisions in tenths of a second and then the most teachable thing comes, which is the technical part to execute ”.
From player to DT
Bazán lived a prestigious career as a footballer that included the U-20 World Cup.
He began coaching immediately after retirement, at the most prestigious children’s and youth clubs of the moment locally and nationally in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. He also alternated his time as part of César Farías’ coaching staff in the Venezuelan national teams.
“I started to direct a bit so as not to feel the lack of football,” he mentioned. “I, like many of my teammates, suffered from leaving football. But I did not suffer so much because it went hand in hand with teaching, which filled that void “.
“I felt qualified to teach,” he added. “It seemed to me that in the United States there was talent, but that the methods were many of American football, basketball and universities. It wasn’t football per se, it was playing soccer. “
In the youth teams of FC Dallas, he ended up establishing himself as one of the main discoverers and trainers of talent. There he joined the technician who supported him to reach the next level, Óscar Pareja.
“Oscar calls me to grow the new development program at FC Dallas,” he said. “I remember that we practiced six teams on one field because there was only one field. The beginnings were very nice. Now it is one of the biggest clubs in the world, with an incredible infrastructure, with more than 250 teams and a lot of courts… “.
Under the leadership of Pareja and Bázán, FC Dallas was considered the premier soccer academy in the United States on the road to professionalism. Both also established a highly disciplined middle and high school curriculum for players, supported by school districts in the region.
In 2012, Pareja was called up to be Colorado Rapids’ First Division manager. For Josema, as Bazán is known on the pitch, it translated into promotion to director of methodology at FC Dallas.
“I ran more than 1,500-1,700 lower division games because I ran 4-5 teams on the weekends, after we trained Monday through Friday,” he said. “So that gave me a lot of experience. That sharpens your eye a lot. So I was gaining experience and later studying “.
“Not only am I empirical,” he added “I have a lot of respect for what they played, but also a lot of respect for those who study.”
Among the list of players who were trained directly and indirectly by Bazán are McKennie, current starting player for Juventus in Italy; Daryl Dike (English Barnsley), Chris Richards (German Hoffenheim), Brian Reynolds (Rome) and Reggie Cannon (Boavista from Portugal), among many more.
There are some others, like the brothers Rogelio (Monterrey) and Ramiro (Spanish Villarreal) Funes Morí, whom he never directed directly, but for whom he always had advice and instructions when they were part of the lower ranks of FC Dallas.
“I don’t think I would be where I am without Josema,” Dike considered. “It has helped me think more about football and challenges me to outsmart my rivals. It has helped my technique dramatically and made me a player who can use his brain and technique instead of using my size and athleticism. “
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“He is a perfectionist,” added the England Barnsley striker. “It pushed me to have the mentality of never being happy with where I am and moving on.”
Bazán also has more than twenty players in MLS and other leagues on the American continent on his resume.
In addition, there are also the Mexican youth World Cup players Richard Sánchez and Bryan Leyva (Under 17 World Cups) and Víctor Ulloa, an Inter Miami player with almost a decade of experience in MLS.
“He was a soccer player, so he knows what it feels like, he knows how to relate very well with each player. He is a coach of the players and always works very hard, “said Ulloa. “He is always reading, he is always learning. When I started with him, he started teaching me to step on the ball, to drive. He never got tired of working on everything technical. “
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Also counted are practically all the current FC Dallas players who emerged from their own academy such as the striker of the US pre-Olympic team Jesús Ferreira and the midfielder Paxton Ponykal. And some more footballers who are about to make their debut in the First Division of European football, led by Justin Che, who is with Bayern Munich. “He grabbed players like me, Weston (McKinnei) and Reggie (Cannon) under his wing to teach us different things to elevate our game,” said Ponykal. “When we did training for positions, Josema was with the attacking players, so I spent a lot of time with him working on the orientation of the body, the shot, the center”.
“The key for Josema to trust a player, regardless of whether he is super young or super old is for him to see that you really want this sport and that you are willing to learn new ideas and concepts,” he added.
A couple of years later, FC Dallas introduced Pareja as their first team coach and since then Bazán has been their main assistant at the club that saw them consolidate. And from there they went to the Xolos de Tijuana, in the Mexican League.
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“The Mexican League was seen a lot (in the United States) and we knew it well, so I was not surprised,” said Bazán. “Yes it is different. But we arrived at a beautiful club where Jorge (Hank, owner of the team) and Nacho Palou (sports director) supported us in everything. Also directing in Spanish was quite an experience. “
The Xolos de Pareja and Bazán had immediate success, which included Liguilla and reaching the final of the Copa MX, before agreeing to leave by mutual agreement, to return to MLS, where they currently lead Orlando City, which has already led to the Championship game of the MLS is Back Tournament, in its first half on hand, and to the playoffs last season for the first time in franchise history.
“For me he is by far the best technical assistant in the world”, considered Ignacio Palou, Xolos sports director. “He has enough knowledge to direct professionally. He is dedicated and a good person. “
Turn to the First Division
All the players he trained and coaches he worked with, who are now in the First Division in different countries, agree that Bazán is ready for the next step, becoming a technical director.
“I believe a lot in him and I believe in his work, in his way of working, watching football and the passion he has,” said Dike. “He really likes having the ball, possession, offensive football. He has a great relationship with the players and manages the groups very well. I think he will be a great coach. ” Bazán recognizes that he has dreams, ambitions and feels prepared to be the coach on the highest circuit, although for now he still enjoys and learns from Pareja.
“One was prepared to be a technical director,” said Bazán. “Then the path took me as an assistant, which is a completely different career (…). It seems to me that it is a more or less organic step, that if it has to be taken, it will take place at the right time because I am fine where I am, I am happy “.
“But I also know that I need this. I’m already on my way to 50 (years of age) and I don’t want to arrive without having the possibility of managing a group, to see if all this experience helps me to lead a group.
“Yes, I have had possibilities, but none that fill me up, that tell me ‘this is it’. And I know that when I arrive, I will have the full support of Oscar, as I always have. Soccer has too many surprises “.
Bazán recognizes that as a coach his main influence has been Óscar Pareja, with whom he has worked and lived together for years. Working with Farías also marked him. As a player, the direction of José Pekerman was fundamental.
“José was a guy who gave a lot of freedom and responsibility at the same time,” he recalled. “A guy with a lot of inner peace. You went out to the court without fear. And that is what I would like to achieve, for a player to come out with great responsibility, without fear of giving 100 percent ”.