FC Dallas received a huge blow today with the departure of Oscar Pareja. The long time club servant departs to take over as the head coach for the Colorado Rapids. Pareja was the heart and soul of the Dallas Burn and FC Dallas for twelve years as a player and then coach.
“I have mixed feelings of course. I really love it here, but I’m really excited for this opportunity,” Pareja said today by phone, “it’s a great chance to see if we can make it happen. “
“It’s hard to find the right moment sometimes. It’s always been for me about taking steps in the right direction and at the right time. I’ve had other offers and turned them down because it wasn’t the right time.”
“Now I have the opportunity to be a head coach and give myself a real chance. We finished a cycle with the FCD Academy and it’s time to move forward and take the next step.”
Pareja scored 13 goals and tallied 47 assists (2nd all-time to Jason Kreis) for FC Dallas before retiring in 2005. After eight seasons as a player in Major League Soccer with New England and FC Dallas, Pareja became an assistant coach with FC Dallas. After two seasons Pareja joined longtime friend Wilmer Cabrera with the US U-17 National Team. He then rejoined Dallas as Director of Player Development for the FC Dallas Youth system in mid-2008.
Pareja built the FCD youth set up into arguably the best in the country. With six Home Grown players already signed to the first team, FCD is reaping the awards of Pareja’s hard work and terrific coaching. With the FCD Academy Pareja was twice (2008-09 and 2009-10) named the U.S. Soccer Development Academy Conference Coach of the Year and was once named Academy Coach of the Year (2008-09).
Many Dallas followers expected (hoped?) Pareja would someday take over FC Dallas. “I never really looked and watched FC Dallas that way,” said Pareja. “I was committed always with the Academy. It was nice this year to work with the first team again, but it was always about developing the players.”
Pareja, who was in Colombia till yesterday on work for FC Dallas (he was instrumental in bringing Hernan Pertuz to the team), is finalizing his affairs with FC Dallas today. Pareja will assume his duties with Colorado this week for the fast approaching MLS Combine and SuperDraft.
“I feel like Colorado is a great organization and a great opportunity. I wanted to go someplace that had a great setup, a strong front office with support, a good academy set up… I’m really looking forward to this opportunity.”
“But I also want to thank FC Dallas, the Hunts, who have been like family to me, the players here, the fans. You know what the club means to me, I’m really passionate about FC Dallas. I’ve always been a one club guy. But at the end of the year, with the progress of the Academy and of me in the program, this was the right moment.”
Oscar Pareja was, and is, one of the most respectful, dedicated, forthright, and honest players and coaches it’s been my privilege to cover and get to know. I personally feel privileged to know him. Few players have meant as much to the club both on and off the field. So much of how the FCD side conducts itself on and off the field comes from him. It will be impossible for FC Dallas to completely replace Pareja and everything he meant to this club.
In recognition of what he has meant to this franchise, Pareja was this season inducted into the Walk of Fame alongside former teammate and friend, the late Bobby Rhine. Pareja’s Walk of Fame induction took place six years to the day that he scored his last goal as a player for FC Dallas.
Will Pareja be successful in Colorado? He has a big challenge ahead of him. Pareja likes his teams to play a certain way, with a possession, ball on the ground, style. He does ask for work rate, which certainly Colorado has, but the Rapids roster as configured now is missing much of the quick passing, short burst, and rapid ball movement kind of players Pareja is sure to want. Time will tell for Pareja and the Rapids.
Regardless of the outcome up north, FC Dallas is worse off this afternoon than they were yesterday.