COMMERCE CITY, Colo. – Oscar Pareja will stalk the sidelines at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park again next year, but more will certainly be demanded from the team he commands on the field.
Pareja will be back for his second year as Colorado head coach in 2013, Rapids technical director Paul Bravo confirmed in an interview with MLSsoccer.com on Monday. But after the Rapids missed out on a postseason berth for the first time in three years in 2012, there’s no doubt that the organization expects improved results in year two.
“We knew that there would be some growing pains there. It’s Oscar’s first head coaching position,“ Bravo said in a wide-ranging, hour-long interview from his office on Monday. “There’s a lot of things that go into that and so overall I thought the results tell the story for us. Nineteen losses, and there’s nobody that it affects more than Oscar. I think he’s learned a lot. I think he’ll be a better coach for it.”
Bravo hinted that Pareja – who was hired in January 2012, just hours before the MLS Combine – may not have had the proper players to fit his attack-minded 4-3-3 scheme. But despite a summer swoon that saw the Rapids go 0-6-0 in July, leading to the their first postseason absence since 2009, Bravo said he also knew that coaching inexperience was partially behind Colorado’s struggles.
“It takes a little bit of time in this league for coaches to get their feet firmly on the ground and really take off,” Bravo said. “When we look at it, Dominic [Kinnear]’s been in that boat, Frank [Yallop]’s been in that boat, Peter [Vermes] has been in that boat, so I see a lot of good in Oscar.
“… He’s very passionate about this club and wanting it to be successful, and he’s very passionate about the way we want to go about getting our results. I see a lot of positive growth from day one to where we are today. And moving into next year, I fully expect us to be able to turn this around.”
But despite several areas of optimism, Bravo’s primary point of concern with Pareja appeared to be the Rapids’ 19 losses, some of which he felt could have been avoided by more conservative play.
Pareja has repeatedly stated his desire to play win-first soccer, but that likely contributed to some of the club’s defensive struggles, as Colorado allowed 50 goals in 2012, the fifth-highest total in MLS. While the Rapids are shifting towards playing more attack-minded soccer, Bravo hinted that it may be prudent to tone down the aggression in 2013 to avoid losing as many games.
“He understands that there could be moments where we need to lock it down to get the point,” Bravo said. “The thing with him is he’s open minded. He accepts constructive criticism and he uses that to become a better coach.
“And I think that’s one of the great qualities that you need, to be able to self reflect, understand where you made mistakes and get better from those moments. I think there are moments where he feels as he had to do it over again, he might do it differently. But at the time, personnel becomes important as well.”
Chris Bianchi covers the Colorado Rapids for MLSsoccer.com.