FC Dallas: Oscar Pareja Has To Be MLS Coach of the Year


FC Dallas: It is one of the most debatable topics in all of sports: just how much of a role does the head coach play in the win/loss record of their team?

What type of tangible, quantifiable effect can a head coach have on his players, his fellow coaches, and the overall performance of the squad?

You see it all the time; a team falls into disarray and everyone lays blame at the feet of the man controlling it all, or rather, failing to control it all. Just look at Jose Mourinho’s fall from grace with Chelsea. Or, to use a more local example, our very own Christian Blood’s opinions on Jason Garrett.

A head coaching job is often a “live by the sword, die by the sword” gig. Fortunately for FC Dallas’ Oscar Pareja, he is living right, and should be the MLS Coach of the Year. Here’s why.

As a coach, you can only make due with the players that you have at your disposal. Particularly in the frugal world that is the FC Dallas budget, you don’t have buckets of cash to dump on designated players that come in and play a boutiquey role.

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That has never been FCD’s style. We have always been a grow ‘em and groom ‘em type of club, which is what has been so impressive about Oscar Pareja. His man management and development skills this season have been second to none.

Take for example how FC Dallas started the season.

A fast start saw them jump into an early lead in the Western Conference. However, the typical spring slump came, like the rising of the sun, and smacked this FC Dallas squad in the mouth.

A loss to Portland was quickly followed by another loss to the miserable Colorado Rapids, who hadn’t won a game in 18 matches. The team was looking lackluster and the morale was low.

Pareja decided to make a few tweaks to his team sheet. He replaced a slow and defensively struggling Michel with the pacier and more versatile Kellyn Acosta. Instead of sticking with the struggling Moises Hernandez, he converted breakout winger Ryan Hollingshead to left back.

Hollingshead and Acosta both bloomed into star players for this team, offering reliability and versatility to a squad that needed a kick-start. A 5 game unbeaten streak followed and pulled FCD out of a spring slumber.

Individual performances are down to the players, but being able to give the right players the right opportunities is what differentiates the average coaches from the really good ones. Papi has done that more often than not this year.

Hollingshead and Acosta could easily be replaced by Diaz and Castillo…who could then be replaced by Ulloa and Zimmerman. But wait, don’t forget about Gonzalez and Barrios.

This roster is littered with young, talented players that have performed well above their market value. Even those that were expected to be solid, like Diaz and Castillo, saw their performances drastically increase this year.

When you see such a marked increase across the entire squad, that’s not down to dumb luck; that’s a head coach that is setting his guys up for success with good training and good tactics. That’s a head coach that is managing the morale of his team and holding them to a high standard at each and every game/practice/film session/etc.

When you look at the roster that he was working with, the budget afforded him, and the results on the score sheet, you find it difficult to argue against Pareja being the best coach in all of MLS.

You find me another coach that has pulled off what Papi has pulled off this year with a similar squad, a similar budget, and a similar strength of schedule, and I’ll buy you a beverage of your choice before the Portland match in Dallas.

Next: Idiot's Guide to FC Dallas

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It doesn’t get any better than Oscar Pareja in this year’s MLS. He has to be the coach of the year.