Oscar Pareja thrilled to pick up where he left off in FC Dallas homecoming

FRISCO, Texas – It was a long awaited homecoming Tuesday at Toyota Stadium as Oscar Pareja was officially introduced as FC Dallas’ sixth head coach.

The press conference to introduce Pareja, who spent 13 years with FCD as a player and then assistant coach, also marked the official end to the exhaustive search for the club’s next leader, one that apparently never strayed far from the former Colorado Rapids head coach.

“I can’t tell you how pleased I am that we are able to bring Oscar home,” said Dan Hunt, who was officially named president of FC Dallas on Monday. “Before he left, I told him that we would work together one day. And that one day came sooner than I’d ever expected.”

Pareja made 170 appearances for the Dallas Burn/FC Dallas franchise from the time he joined the team in 1998 until his retirement from playing in 2005. The Colombian international then seamlessly moved into various coaching roles with the club before taking over for the Rapids in 2012.

Pareja admitted the decision to accept the offer in Dallas and leave what he’d built with the Rapids was very difficult. But it was an opportunity that he simply could not pass up, he said.

“I have to tell you honestly, after all we have done the last two years in Colorado, I don’t think there would be another place that I would go if it was not here to Dallas,” Pareja said.

Dallas technical director Fernando Clavijo and Hunt maintained throughout their four-month search process that hiring a coach who understood and shared FCD’s vision with their youth system was a priority, so who better to bring in than the man who is widely credited with turning the FC Dallas Academy into one of the best in the country?

“[Pareja] started a lot of things at the futures and academy levels,” Clavijo said. “He took two years vacation in Colorado, and he [now comes] back to Dallas to finish it.”

Dan’s brother, Clark Hunt, president of team owner Hunt Sports Group, introduced Pareja and cited his experience in MLS as a player and coach, his teaching ability, tactical savvy, personal integrity and passion for the club as reasons why he was the top choice among the dozen candidates interviewed.

The new Dallas gaffer later gave more insight into his decision-making process in a conversation with MLSsoccer.com.

“I think when I explored the possibility and I saw that it was a real opportunity to come here, I just started seeing the vision that we had when Lamar [Hunt] started this project,” Pareja said, “a project that I was a part of. The people here have a special place in my heart, with the Hunt family. A program that I started with the academy … you know, all these factors made me think it was the right time to come.”

The choice also seems to be resonating with FCD fans, as Dan Hunt remarked that season ticket sales have increased since it was revealed that the former fan-favorite player would be returning to where it all started for him. Hunt said many of the renewals came from former season ticket holders who are returning to the fold.

Summed up Clavijo: “How many times do you really have in life an opportunity to do what you want to do in the place that you want to do it?”