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Óscar Pareja to Orlando City talk heats up after he parts ways with Liga MX club

Orlando City executive vice president Luiz Muzzi, who is leading the Lions’ search, and Pareja previously worked closely together at FC Dallas

FC Dallas head coach Oscar Pareja reacts after the match against the Columbus Crew at Toyota Stadium. Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Óscar Pareja has parted ways with Club Tijuana in Liga MX, making him available for an MLS head coaching job. 

Pareja has been most closely linked with Orlando City and was widely regarded as one of the club’s top options after the firing of former Lions coach James O’Connor.

Pareja previously worked with Orlando City executive vice president of soccer operations Luiz Muzzi, collaborating for five seasons when Pareja was the head coach of FC Dallas and Muzzi was the club’s director of soccer and assistant technical director. Pareja led Dallas to consecutive playoff appearances, a Western Conference title, a Supporters Shield and a U.S. Open Cup title. He left Dallas with a 97-55-50 record, moving to Liga MX to coach Club Tijuana.

Orlando City reaffirmed this week that the club is not preparing to make an announcement soon. The club has not rushed to install a coach before the MLS offseason mechanisms began, and Muzzi — assisted by scouting director Ricardo Moreira — continues to remain at the helm for roster decisions.

The Lions have chosen to pass in several offseason mechanisms already, including the End-of-Year Waiver Draft and the first stage of the Re-Entry Draft.

Pareja was unable to reach the playoffs with the Xolos this season, finishing in eighth place at the end of the Clausura earlier in the year. Several reports have linked his departure with offers from Orlando City, although the club has not commented on the coaching search.

ESPN analyst Taylor Twellman suggested Orlando City had remained quiet while Pareja was employed by the Liga MX side to avoid contract problems, but Twellman also noted a second MLS club is interested in potentially hiring Pareja.

Muzzi said soon after O’Connor was fired he was looking for an offensive-minded coach who was willing to take some risks, shared the club’s tactical views and was capable of leading the Lions to their first MLS playoff bid.

“I feel like this is gonna be an important moment now,” Muzzi told Pro Soccer USA in October. “We’re gonna have to find the right person. We all need to move in the same direction. Otherwise you’re gonna bring in a new coach and it’s gonna be the same thing. I feel like it’s an advantage that I have the chance to bring in somebody who’s aligned with those things, but everybody here should be on the same page.”

Muzzi said in October he was in no rush to make a hire, but he also said he did not want the process to extend until the end of the year. However, with December nearing without a coach installed, Orlando City has since made it clear that the team is willing to remain patient in its search.

“I think that the one thing that’s not gonna happen is that we’re gonna take a chance on a coach,” Muzzi said. “Whoever is coming in is a coach that we already know in terms of we know what this guy is gonna bring to the table. It’s not gonna be a gamble. We can’t afford that anymore.”

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