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FC Dallas head coach Oscar Pareja talks draft strategy ahead of MLS Combine

FRISCO - Oscar Pareja has a secret.

He might be leading the way among MLS head coaches in the Homegrown player movement and advocating for young players, but when it comes to watching college soccer, his DVR isn’t exactly filled with ACC and PAC-12 games.

“I don’t really follow the players [before] the combine much. My assistants do it a lot and I have to say [assistant coach] Marco Ferruzzi is the key here,” said Pareja on Thursday afternoon. “The hours that he puts and the time he puts in, he can tell you anything about any player in college and the same with Drew Keeshan, Josema [Bazan] and Brent [Erwin] who do a tremendous job.”

Pareja said he more than trusts the opinions of his assistants on the analysis of which players are worthy of being drafted, and at the combine he’s looking for that little extra something that maybe can’t be defined between the lines of the soccer field.

“There has to be a bunch of little things that gel together and it’s difficult to define each of them but when I see players and especially the guys in the draft I look for players who I can smell [success] and see them fitting into the culture of the club first,” said Pareja. “I think after the draft everyone feels like they draft well so the key for that success has to be what you do after you pick.”

It’s tough to argue with results and Pareja’s drafting success in his three years as a head coach is practically unmatched across the league. The Colombian has selected the last two MLS Rookie of the Year winners in Dillon Powers and Tesho Akindele, as well as two other MLS’ers with solid futures in Deshorn Brown and Tony Cascio.

“I do [take pride in the draft] because I am a big believer of the talent in America,” said Pareja. “I enjoy going and seeing the college players, the guys who have already dedicated three or four years of their lives to prepare themselves as a professional in the education part and to have the opportunity to see their talent and have the chance to fulfill their dreams is something I couldn’t have when I grew up.”

With the #15 overall pick, Pareja will be selected later than he has in any of his previous three drafts, but it’s a challenge he’s taking head on.

“There are names that naturally dominate the draft that are no-brainers and they’re not there [at #15], but I still think that there are many others that are good and as I say I trust a lot in what you do after you draft putting in work on the training ground with them developing their confidence and their capacity to play the game,” said Pareja. “You can get an [early] pick and then they do nothing during the year and then you can get a player later that you put in work and he becomes like a first pick.”