Walk of Fame 2011: Oscar Pareja and Bobby Rhine

Former teammates, close friends and soccer ambassadors inducted in joint ceremony

On Saturday, October 15, prior to FC Dallas’ regular season home finale, FC Dallas inducted the latest class to the club’s Walk of Fame, which honors individual contribution to the growth of soccer in North Texas. This year’s inductees were Oscar Pareja and the late Bobby Rhine. [VIEW PHOTO GALLERY]

FRISCO, Texas – Prior to the unprecedented heights that FC Dallas reached as a club in 2010, 1999 stood as the benchmark of success for the franchise for over a decade.  While MLS Scoring Champion and MVP Jason Kreis dominated the headlines for the Burn back in ’99, that fateful season also saw the emergence of two players who would go on to become two of the most prominent figures in the history of the club; two men who, over the next 12 years, would dedicate themselves to the growth and promotion of soccer in North Texas. 

   Walk of Fame: Oscar Pareja
   

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The Dallas Burn acquired Colombian midfielder Oscar Pareja from the New England Revolution on August 15, 1998.  Although Pareja made a handful of appearances for the Burn on the tail end of the ’98 season, it was the next year that the playmaker really established himself in the Dallas squad.

Pareja’s first full year in the Cotton Bowl also marked the debut season of a talented young forward out of the University of Connecticut in Dallas’ first round draft pick (sixth overall), Bobby Rhine. 

Rhine made his first start for Dallas against the then-San Jose Clash on May 15, 1999.  In the ninth minute of that match, Rhine scored his first career goal off a pass from Pareja.  Rhine scored again in the second half to give Dallas a 2-1 victory over San Jose.

Over the next six and a half years, the two were staples together in the Dallas lineup – but they also became great friends off the field, through the transitions from the Dallas Burn to FC Dallas and from the field of the Cotton Bowl to the pitch of Pizza Hut Park.

“Bobby was more than a teammate to me, and more than a friend,” said Pareja in his induction speech. “He was a mentor. He was always telling me ‘this is the way we do things here.’ The greatest honor of this award is to share it with Bobby.”

Pareja retired in 2005 after eight seasons in Major League Soccer, trading his cleats for a clipboard to become an assistant coach with FC Dallas.  The Colombian stayed with the club for two years before receiving an offer from longtime friend and newly-appointed United States U-17 Men’s National Team coach Wilmer Cabrera.

 “My goal was to bring him [Pareja] in and take the things that we had learned through our lives as soccer players and communicate and share that with the kids for their own benefit,” said Cabrera, who has known Pareja since they were Colombian national team teammates in 1987.

Pareja’s stay on Cabrera’s staff would last less than a year however, as the Burn legend jumped at the chance to become the Director of Player Development for the FC Dallas Youth system in mid-2008.  Since rejoining FCD, Pareja has established the club’s Academy team as one of the best in the nation.

“Oscar has done a great job with the system at FC Dallas,” said Cabrera.  “There is very little difference between what he does there in Dallas and what we do here with the Youth U.S. National Team.  He has helped make the FC Dallas Academy one of the best, if not the best at the club level in the United States.”

In the 2010-2011 season, Pareja was named the U-18 Academy coach of the year before taking the U-18s to a runner-up finish at the national championship, and U.S. Soccer rated the FC Dallas Academy best in the nation among over 70 different clubs. 

In addition to overseeing the Development Academy, Pareja also now coaches the FC Dallas Reserves, a squad which often features several of FCD’s six Home Grown players who have signed professional contracts with the club after coming up through the Academy under Pareja’s tutelage. 

Ironically, the Walk of Fame induction took place six years to the day that Pareja scored his last goal as a player for FC Dallas. The first to congratulate him on the field that day was, of course, Bobby Rhine. Rhine played for three more seasons after Pareja’s retirement and then joined him as a member of the FC Dallas front office.

His contributions on the field, while well-known (212 games played, 23 goals and 34 assists) tell only a small part of his lasting impression on the game of soccer in North Texas and the United States.

   Walk of Fame: Bobby Rhine
   

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“I don’t know if you can put it into words how much he cared about the sport and the club, every aspect of it, as a player, as a coach and as a broadcaster,” said Rhine’s wife, Bevan. “Every time he would leave to go coach he would say ‘Baby, I’m going to go shape the future of American soccer.’ He would joke, but I think he really meant it.

“He attempted to have an impact on the players and what it could mean in the sport in America – and maybe he did shape it a little bit.”

After retiring in 2008, Rhine accepted a position in the FC Dallas front office, coaching for a time in the FC Dallas Youth system and serving as the team’s broadcaster. It was there that he made perhaps his most lasting impact, connecting with fans, media and the general public through his weekly radio show, Soccer Today, his podcasts and writings for FCDallas.com, and his burgeoning career as a broadcaster.

“He was so passionate about the game, and so knowledgeable,” said Gordon Jago, fellow member of the Walk of Fame and Executive Director of Dallas Cup, who was a longtime friend of Rhine’s. “I believed he would become one of the finest soccer commentators in this country. The progress that he made in such a short amount of time and the standard and quality of his work – he was destined to go on NBC, FOX, whoever. He was so good at his job.”

Rhine’s untimely passing in September stunned the soccer world, igniting an outpouring of support and tributes from the many who had felt his impact on the game. [VISIT THE BR19 TRIBUTE PAGE]

“He meant so much to this club, not only on the field but off,” said FC Dallas owner Clark Hunt. “His passion for the game, his enthusiasm, the way he carried himself with tremendous humility and integrity – there really has been no more of a kind person than Bobby Rhine to associate with the club.”

The Walk of Fame was established in 2005 with an inaugural class that included Lamar Hunt, soccer visionary and FC Dallas patriarch; Gordon Jago; Women’s World Cup winner and USWNT captain Carla Overbeck; and Dallas Sidekick legend Tatu. Prior to Saturday, the Walk of Fame included 14 of the most decorated players, coaches and soccer visionaries to leave their mark on the sport in North Texas. Pareja and Rhine, longtime friends, teammates and soccer ambassadors, were inducted together to make an even 16.

“The Walk of Fame is a way for the club to honor players, coaches and people that have been involved in the game for their contributions they have made to the sport here in North Texas,” Hunt said. “That’s not always on the club side, but it’s also on the youth side. Certainly in this year’s we covered all our bases in Rhine and Pareja, both of whom made a tremendous contribution on the field and off.

“Anything else just wouldn’t have been fitting.”

To learn more about the FC Dallas Walk of Fame, visit the official page on FCDallas.com.