I wrote this post last week, mostly because it was too obvious not to write.
- Right before Thanksgiving, Oscar Pareja left Club Tijuana in Liga MX. Pareja needed a job.
- Orlando City needed a manager.
- Pareja worked with Orlando EVP of soccer operations Luis Muzzi at FC Dallas for five years.
- Pareja is the embodiment of solid, substantive MLS manager.
- Goodness, do Orlando need some solid substance in their lives.
It fit together about as well as any club-manager recruitment could possibly fit together. And Wednesday, it became official. Oscar Pareja is the new manager of the Lions.
It feels like you couldn't have found a better match for organization and person. Or, to correct that slightly, you couldn't find a better match for organizational needand person. Orlando have spent five years in MLS and missed the playoffs five times. They are the Space Mountain of MLS; every season — every — is a dizzying experience. They need someone to provide a steady hand.
If you were to look up the definition of "this guy means business" for MLS, Pareja's picture would pop up. He doesn't feel a need to sign big stars and he doesn't feel pressured to play a certain way. He sticks to his style, his players work their tails off and he gets results. He understands the rigors of coaching in a warm city. He knows how to steer a ship straight ahead.
In Pareja's five years in charge, from 2014 to 2018, FC Dallas won the second-most total points in the league, 55.4 per year, trailing only the New York Red Bulls. He made the playoffs in four out of the five years (although the epic half-season collapse in 2017 is still one of the most baffling things we've seen in MLS). He won one Supporters' Shield and came within goal differential of getting another.
His colleague during that run...Muzzi.
It wasn't always pretty soccer in Dallas. When I think of those teams, the words "dedication" and "commitment" come to mind first. It wasn't ugly — Fabian Castillo and Mauro Diaz could be thrilling to watch — but there just weren't any questions about the priorities. Pareja knew what it took to get results in MLS, including the types of players required, and he executed. That's exactly what Orlando need right now. They are a club that's gone for glamor for four years, always looking for the immediate answer. Pareja will teach them how to win.
A coaching search is often an exhaustive experience. Other times, it's so obvious that it hits you in the head. This is one of those. Orlando's job listing for the job would have read, "Someone like Oscar Pareja." They happened to get the man himself.