Report: Oscar Pareja steps down as Colorado Rapids head coach

Oscar Pareja, Colorado Rapids head coach

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Oscar Pareja’s time as head coach in Colorado appears to be over, leaving the Rapids with a significant hole in their organization less than two weeks before the MLS SuperDraft.

Goal.com’s Ives Galarcep reported on Saturday that Pareja has stepped down from his position in Colorado after two seasons at the helm amid reports that FC Dallas are interested in bringing him back to Texas this season. A former player and assistant coach with FCD more for than a decade, Pareja has reportedly long been the club’s top choice to replace outgoing head coach Schellas Hyndman, who stepped down from the position in November.

Current New York Red Bulls assistant coach Robin Fraser is the top candidate to replace Pareja in Colorado, according to the Goal.com report. Former Portland Timbers head coach John Spencer – who suited up for the Rapids from 2001-04 and was a 2010 inductee into the club’s Gallery of Honor – is also a leading candidate, according to the report.

A Rapids spokesperson declined comment Saturday when asked about the report.

Pareja had one year remaining on his contract with the Rapids and the team picked up its one-year option on the head coach late last season, meaning he was expected to remain in Denver through 2015.

Because of his contract status, he won’t be able to coach anywhere else in MLS this year unless the Rapids reach an agreement to release him from his commitment. It’s unclear if the club has reached a deal for compensation from Dallas, but FCD appear to be a likely destination after they first came calling in November, when Rapids president Tim Hinchey denied a request for the team to speak with Pareja.

Pareja was again linked to the FCD coaching job last month after weeks of an unsuccessful search to find Hyndman’s replacement.

Pareja took over in Colorado in January 2012 and, after effectively disassembling the team left to him by deposed boss Gary Smith, led the Rapids to the Western Conference playoffs last year. A coach with a noted eye for developing young talent, Pareja monitored the promising first pro seasons of striker Deshorn Brown and midfielder Dillon Powers, who was named Rookie of the Year in November.

He also oversaw defender Chris Klute’s transition from the NASL ranks last season and Clint Irwin's emergence from backup goalkeeper to starter, and signed defender Shane O’Neill to a Homegrown contract in June 2012. Klue and O'Neill were called into the US national team’s January camp on Friday.

The MLS Player Combine opens on Jan. 10, while the SuperDraft will take place on Jan. 16.