Oscar Pareja is a lot of things, but a selfish man he is not.
The newly-named 2016 MLS Coach of the Year has taken FC Dallas from a Western Conference bottom-dweller to powerhouse in the span of three seasons. His club was the first to post back-to-back 60+ point seasons in MLS history. He’s become the model for player development in the U.S. He’s made three straight playoff appearances and he’s earned the club not just its first trophy in 19 years, but doubled down and brought home two.
But Oscar Pareja will be the first to tell you this was not all his doing alone.
“I say this from the bottom of my heart: this is an award that belongs to the coaching staff. It shouldn't be called Coach of the Year, it should be called Coaching Staff of the Year because there are many people involved in the work,” he said. “I'm blessed to have this group of coaches and staff.”
His staff – all as deeply rooted in the club as the former Academy Director – often work in the shadows of FC Dallas’ successes. Marco Ferruzzi just completed his 12th season with the club. Josema Bazan worked as an Academy coach for Pareja beginning in 2011, and has been a figure head of Dallas youth soccer since 1997. Drew Keeshan has worked with FC Dallas goalkeepers for nine full seasons now.
The only coach that’s been a new face to the club is Fabian Bazan, the brother of Josema who was brought in as Strength and Conditioning Coach before the 2015 season after a lengthy resume working for the Venezuelan National Team and in Liga MX.
“Marco has that tactical ability to work that defensive face of the game, Josema has it on the other side on the offensive face, Fabian just glues us together around the physical part of the game as the fitness coach, but also he takes care all the details that sometimes you can't cover, and Drew has done magnificent work with the goalkeepers during many years with this club - his experience and dedication is amazing.
“As a group of coaches, we have a common zone where we come and we make our opinions and what we think is best for the group, but I think the specific task that every single coach has for the team is what makes us strong.”
These four spend more time together than some people do with their own families. Whether it be countless hours going over game film, formulating game and practice plans or scouting possible new players, they’re seemingly always together and working to continue the rise of FC Dallas.
“The work here during the year is very intense and having people that you trust and that you believe in and that mutual feeling of being really friends and working in every single aspect with the same interest, that just makes us very strong,” Pareja said. “Sharing [this award] with them is very important. They should be very proud.”
And while the recognition is a welcomed accomplishment, Pareja and his staff are still hard at work looking to accomplish something much bigger than any individual award.
“That bigger prize is an assignment to be accomplished yet. We need to get it for the club. Not just get all these points that we’ve had, but to be able to finish strong in the playoffs and get that MLS Cup. That’s what we’re aiming for.”