Óscar Pareja was introduced as the new head coach of Club Tijuana of Liga MX Friday after spending the past seven seasons coaching in Major League Soccer.
FC Dallas and Pareja announced the two were parting ways on Nov. 19 after his fifth season with the team. The Colombian coach revealed the timeline of events that led from the 2-1 loss against Portland on Oct. 31 in the knockout round of the MLS playoffs to being named Tijuana’s new coach.
“We obviously finished the season there,” Pareja said in a conference call with American reporters. “I was in the process of being selected as the national team coach in the USA. I was being interviewed. I had a week or two in that process after the end of the season. At the same time, I received the invitation to come to Tijuana. It’s something we were analyzing in a parallel way of the USA job. I spoke with Jorge [Hank Rhon] and Nacho [Juan Ignacio Palou] and [told] them it would be great as well for us to take this challenge.
“I spoke with the people in Dallas also, just telling them it’d be a good time to move and refresh myself and get a different experience, but at the same time, give FC Dallas an opportunity to refresh and bring somebody who can bring a different instruction after five years consecutively. All of that happened during this month actually and at the end, I received the news from [USSF] that they will be selecting the other candidate and two days after I accepted the job here in Tijuana.”
The end between Pareja and FC Dallas was positive. FC Dallas President Dan Hunt and Pareja have spoken in the last few days and Pareja was even at the team’s staff and club holiday potluck.
“This is a great thing for Oscar,” Hunt said on Thursday during the unveiling of North Texas SC. “It’s a great thing for his family and we’re thrilled for the opportunity. This is amicable as a situation as there’s ever been. I’ve talked to Oscar a couple of times in the last few days. He was in recently and there’s always a lot of hugs. We’re happy for Oscar. Oscar will always be welcome in Dallas.”
Pareja is eager to start a new challenge in a new league. The 50-year-old spoke about the amount of time he spent in MLS and how much he’s looking forward to experiencing the world of Liga MX.
“I’m excited for the change of many things,” Pareja said. “I’ve been in Dallas for 20 years — not consecutive years, but it has almost been half of my life. Being in Major League Soccer for this many years and being in the program for that long, I think at first it helped me to grow as a coach, but sometimes just taking these kind of challenges it will make us grow immensely. At this point inside me, the fact that I’m going to find different media, different players, different fans, and different fields. I would like to make sure what we can do just to keep helping this case in Tijuana and how can we help as well, the development of the academy and the development of the memories here and the different players and youngsters that have the same dream that the others had in Dallas. Just trying to implement what we were successful in Dallas to just do it here also.”
The job with Xolos also presents another opportunity for Parjea to work with Fabian Castillo, a player he helped bring to Dallas in 2011. Pareja and Castillo were close, with Castillo adapting to the United States by living with Pareja in 2011. Castillo’s breakup with the club was messy, as he forcibly departed for Turkish side Trabonzspor where he made 48 appearances for the club. Castillo signed with Tijuana on July 27 and appeared in 11 matches during the Apentura season.
“I’ve worked with him,” Pareja said. “I had him in Dallas for a few years and after he went to Turkey and here in Tijuana. Life just gave us the opportunity to work together again. I think he’s great. I have thought about what he can do on the field and just keep helping him to be a better player. I’ve spoken with him a couple times this week. he has told me about the city and the club. We just put ourselves on the same page and just try to keep the best for the club, who has given us the opportunity.”
FC Dallas is attempting to look ahead from the departure of arguably the greatest coach in the franchise’s history. The team revealed its new United Soccer League One team, North Texas SC, on Thursday and is continuing to work toward hiring a new head coach for its senior side. MLSSoccer.com reported that U.S. U20 coach Tab Ramos, FC Dallas assistant coach Marco Ferruzzi and academy director Luchi Gonzalez are all in contention for the job. FCD President Dan Hunt didn’t say who is in his final group, but says the pool of candidates has far surpassed expectations and that he is thrilled with the direction of the club.
“We’ve gone through the interviews and the candidate pool we have — my brother [FC Dallas CEO Clark Hunt] and I talk about it a lot — it is unbelievable the evolution and the coaching candidates from five years ago,” Hunt said. “The quality, the interest, we’ve had 100’s of enquiries for the job, including people with Champions League experience. In fact, I just got a top English coach about 10 minutes before we came out here, asking about the opportunity here. We’ve already been running our process and my brother and I have been reflecting on it. We are thrilled with our final candidate pool and we’re down to a couple. We should be making an announcement for a head coach in the next week and our entire staff.”