Orlando City announced Wednesday that Óscar Pareja has been named the club’s new head coach for the upcoming 2020 MLS season.
“Óscar is the perfect fit for the Orlando City organization, something I can say with confidence from our history of working together,” Orlando City SC EVP of Soccer Operations Luiz Muzzi said. “He possesses the talent and passion to help our Club reach both its short term goals on the field and long-term plans for the organization. Óscar checked all the boxes we were looking to fill and his vision is aligned with the plans that we have as a Club – to invest in and develop players at all levels of our pyramid to be both proud and successful when wearing the Orlando City crest.”
The announcement comes just shy of two months since James O’Connor was fired following a brutal end to the season in which the Lions went winless in their final eight games, missing out on the playoffs for a fifth consecutive season.
The Colombian-born Pareja becomes the fourth head coach in the club’s history.
After O’Connor was fired, Orlando City’s Executive Vice President of Soccer Operations said the roster O’Connor had was good enough to make the playoffs, and with much of Orlando’s starting core from 2019 returning, that sets internal expectations high for Pareja from the start.
Pareja, who parted ways with Club Tijuana last week, spent five seasons at the helm of FC Dallas from 2014-2018, leading the club to a 97-50-55 record in 202 matches across all competitions, while leading Dallas to the U.S. Open Cup and Supporters’ Shield trophies in 2016 and coming within a tie-breaker shy of winning the Shield in 2015 as well.
After the 2018 season, Pareja, who’s Colombian born, felt he needed a change and a new challenge, going to Mexico to coach at Tijuana where he only lasted a year, missing the playoffs down the stretch.
With Muzzi, who worked with Pareja in Dallas for many years in the front office, in charge of the soccer operations in Orlando, the 51-year-old Colombian always seemed like the natural No. 1 choice. And with his departure from Tijuana confirmed last week, that all but sealed the deal on his return to MLS and appointment to head coach in Orlando.
Pareja’s reputation and pedigree in MLS brings an instant credibility to the job in Orlando, one that has not been viewed so positively over the years as coaches and front office staff continue to churn through the club, but with Muzzi as the frontman of the operation, it lends the belief that the Lions could finally be on the verge of starting something special for the long-term in Central Florida.
For more Orlando soccer news, follow the Soccer Journal on Twitter: @osjsoccer