Go Inside the Mind of Oscar Pareja on Roster Decisions, Lineups and His Plan Down the Stretch

As part of FC Dallas Fan Appreciation Week, pres. by Papa John's, head coach Oscar Pareja sat down with Carter Baum to take questions from the fans in last week's episode of FC Dallas Live. You can watch the entire episode above or read about just some of the insights Papi gave during the show below. 

FRISCO - Oscar Pareja, the head honcho of FC Dallas, is known for his intensity and demeanor that the fans see on the sidelines during games. What they don’t often see is the work he and the rest of his staff put forth day-in and day-out to ensure this team is successful.

THE NEXT TASK

A head coach's job is never done, not after the regular season, not after the postseason, not until the trophies come home and the club succeeds. As FC Dallas clinched the playoffs in Portland, Pareja’s mind jumped directly to the next objective: seeding. 

“We have done, the boys have done a terrific job in the season and we are very proud of them. Now the other four games will allow us to seed well in the conference, which is the next objective, and like this game, it doesn't stop,” Pareja said. “We feel lighter but at the same time, we are carrying a responsibility now to seed well and also make the best out of the playoffs.”

SETTING THE TEAM

When it comes to preparing for any game, it’s the head coach's job to set the game plan and line up every week. There is a lot that goes into setting a game plan, which is why it is arguable the most intricate part of the job. Pareja lays out a game plan on the first of every week, either Sunday or Monday, depending on when the team played last.

“We try to equate different things. First, the past game you analyze how was the behavior of the team as a team. You obviously analyze what was the performance from each individual,” Pareja said. “Sometimes they are in their peak, sometimes they are not in a good mood, so in that moment the job of the coach is just to try to see where those chemistry peaks for the next game.” 

Yet, often times, that game plan set out early in the week will evolve to something different come game day. 

“You may have an idea on Monday but through Wednesday or Thursday the team has changed, here and there, and maybe you see a different combination or somebody's playing better than the other one,” Pareja said.  

A lot of those moving pieces depend solely on the team and the players, just like the line up, which is why there are a lot of factors that contribute to the decision. The final determination always falls to the head coach. 

“The way that coaches normally decide the line up is and what are the factors that they equate in order to come up with that idea, but at the same time, just having the luxury to have players that are always working and preparing and making things difficult, which is great,” Pareja said. 

OPTIONS ALL AROUND

Pareja’s job is made a little easier by having a hard-working and talented team that is always willing to step up and train hard. Having so many players capable of starting in any given game is both a blessing and a challenge. 

“It’s a great problem to have," he said. "You have different options and we try as much as we can to be, not just objective but be very fair with the game plan but also with the players that are making an effort just to part of the lineup."

Having those options on his roster in 2018, Pareja has been able to deploy countless looks and formations. Now it's time to continue to fine-tune those while fighting for a top spot. 

“Those things makes the lineups less predictable even though it looks like on your side that we as the coaches are predictable when we bring up a lineup there is a lot of analysis that has been done during the week.”

THE FINAL STRETCH

As the long and grueling MLS season winds down and with Dallas holding a playoff spot already, Pareja now has options in how to approach the last few games and making sure everyone is ready come November. He says he has already established a process for choosing the roster in the playoffs.

“You have to consider different things. First, the players, it’s very difficult to have 30 players in the same level so approaching the playoffs you want to try just to make the most of them be in a mood that is pretty similar,” Pareja said. “Some of them sometimes come from injury, some others from not playing so long, others that are tired but that’s just the intensity of the league.”

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