FRISCO, Tex. -- After FC Dallas’ away goals defeat in the 2018 CONCACAF Champions League Round of 16 on Wednesday following a 3-2 win at Toyota Stadium, head coach Oscar Pareja didn't look to point fingers in the face of a disappointing exit at the hands of Panamanian side Tauro FC.
The Colombian refused to be drawn on blame outside of himself, stating “I am responsible because I’m responsible for the program.”
Just 35 minutes into the game, after Tauro scored and went ahead 2-0 in the series, FC Dallas midfielder Victor Ulloa was sacrificed in favor of new signing Santiago Mosquera. The move prompted a more attacking look from the 3-5-2 Dallas had trialed in preseason, with regular No. 10Mauro Diaz dropping to a deep-lying playmaker role in the absence of Kellyn Acosta.
Mosquera played a role in Dallas' comeback, earning a second-half penalty converted by Diaz, but by that point Tauro had added another goal, which proved to be the decisive tally in the series.
“Santi Mosquera, coming into the team, has different characteristics for our attack,” said Pareja of the early substitution. “Santi has penetration, the dribble, he takes guys on and makes good combinations from that [left] side or the right.”
While the CCL matches against Tauro echo Dallas’ disastrous end to 2017, going from first in the Western Conference to missing the playoffs altogether, time is something that will not be afforded with a four-game home stand to start the 2018 MLS regular season this weekend. Pareja preached patience however, stating that FC Dallas must grow into a second formation after heavily relying on the 4-2-3-1 for several years.
When asked if players had disappointed in the new system, the coach leapt to the defense of his charges.
“I knew from the first moment I took this job, that I need to overcome and keep pushing forward,” said Pareja. “That is what I have to do as a leader. If I don’t see a response from the players on the field, I will be the first one to step aside, but I see the response of people trying to do the right things.”
Dallas’ 19-year-old right back, Reggie Cannon, gave insight into the response that Pareja seeks to draw from his team and his belief in the new system. Cannon shared part of Pareja's post-game team talk with FCDallas.com ahead of the league opener at home on Saturday against Real Salt Lake (8 pm ET).
“Oscar told us in the locker room, ‘Keep your heads up, we got a home opener on Saturday, we just need to keep going and get ready for that. Just bounce back and get ready for the season, it’s going to change during the season.’”