Rapids hire FC Dallas assistant Pareja as head coach

The Colorado Rapids concluded their coaching search on Thursday, announcing that FC Dallas assistant Oscar Pareja would take over the head coaching responsibilities at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park.

Pareja, who replaces Englishman Gary Smith, spent the last five seasons on the Dallas coaching staff, where he served as reserve team coach and academy director. Under his watch, the FC Dallas youth system has had six players promoted to the first team, the most in Major League Soccer, and the academy was ranked the best in the country in 2011.

“This is a dream come true, and I am excited to get started at the Player Combine this weekend and the SuperDraft next week,” Pareja said in a statement. “We already have a great team and everyone is optimistic about what we can achieve this season and beyond.

“I also want to express my most sincere thanks and gratitude to Clark and Dan Hunt and everyone at the FC Dallas organization, who have all played a huge part in my career and life since 1998.”

The Medellín, Colombia, native was also named Development Academy Coach of the Year in 2009 and served as an assistant coach for the US Under-17 national team in 2007-08.

Before going into coaching, Pareja enjoyed an 18-year playing career, starting in his hometown with Independiente Medellín before moving on to Deportivo Cali and, eventually, MLS, where he made 189 appearances with Dallas from 1998-2005 and earned a Best XI nod in 2002. He earned 11 caps for the Colombian national team during his career.

“We’re thrilled to welcome Oscar to the club,” Rapids president Tim Hinchey said in a press release. “He was an exciting, attacking player who has also earned a lot of respect as a coach. His accomplishments at both the youth and professional levels show that he can be successful in the short term while building for the future. This is an exciting moment for the future of the Rapids.”