In the Harry Potter series, Lord Voldemort is referred to as “he-who-must-not-be-named.” FC Dallas head coach and ex-Colorado Rapids manager Oscar Pareja isn’t quite at the fictitious Voldemort’s level in and around Dick’s Sporting Goods Park, but he is the one name that, when mentioned, can quickly turn a smile upside down in Commerce City.
Although a thing of the past at this point, there’s no doubt Pareja’s contentious offseason departure stung deep and hard at the Rapids' front office, though the powers that be have declined to say so with a recorder in plain sight.
But for the first time since his messy January exit, the Rapids have a chance to exact at least some form of revenge against their old coach on Saturday night, something the Rapids are very, very aware of.
“It’ll be a big game for us. I think Oscar [Pareja] does [have an impact on the game],” Rapids defender Shane O’Neill said after Colorado’s scoreless draw against the Fire on Wednesday night. “We do want to go down there and win, to get this win for the club and for ourselves.”
According to Rapids president Tim Hinchey this winter, Pareja told his bosses last November that he wanted to remain with the club after initial overtures from FC Dallas following Schellas Hyndman’s departure.
But in December, said Hinchey, Pareja changed his mind, leading to an awkward standoff that resulted in the delayed departure of the up-and-coming coach just months after leading Colorado to the postseason. Pareja spent well over a decade in Dallas as a player and then a coach, earning a reputation for successfully developing young talent that carried over to the dynamic young Rapids in 2013.
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In Pareja’s wake came Pablo Mastroeni, who took over mere weeks after officially retiring, and the Rapids have turned a few heads with a solid 6-4-4 start through the first third of the season.
Pareja is largely a forgotten figure these days. But on Saturday night at Toyota Stadium (8:30 pm ET, MLS Live), the Rapids will get their first crack at exacting on-field revenge against their old skipper, and are riding high after collecting seven points in their freshly-completed three-game homestand.
“We have a point to prove,” O’Neill said of Saturday’s matchup. “I think we’re on a high right now, and we’ve just got to bring it down there, all cylinders firing. I think we moved the ball in the second half really well [against Chicago], and if we do that the whole game down in Dallas, I think we’ll get the win.”
Chris Bianchi covers the Colorado Rapids for MLSsoccer.com.