Orlando City’s quest for a first playoff berth in club history will be led by a coach who knows a little something about leading teams to the MLS playoffs.
The Lions have announced the hiring of Oscar Pareja as the team’s new head coach. Pareja joins Orlando City after spending a year in charge of Club Tijuana, which he left recently by mutual consent.
The move reunites Pareja with Luiz Muzzi, Orlando City’s executive vice president of soccer operations, who worked with Pareja at FC Dallas. Pareja compiled a 78-49-43 record during five seasons at FC Dallas, where he won a U.S. Open Cup title and MLS Supporters’ Shield in 2016, earning MLS coach of the year honors.
FC Dallas qualified for the MLS playoffs in four of Pareja’s five seasons, adding to Pareja’s successful stint as Colorado Rapids head coach, which saw him lead the Rapids to the 2013 playoffs.
Orlando City will be hoping Pareja can snap the Lions’ postseason drought, which has seen the Florida club miss out on the playoffs in each of its five seasons.
Pareja takes over an Orlando City side that finished with the third-worst record in MLS in 2019, posting a 9-15-10 record that cost then-head coach James O’Connor his job after two seasons in charge.
Pareja joined Club Tijuana for the 2019 Clausura campaign, helping lead the Xolos to the playoffs. His second season, in the 2019 Apertura campaign, was less successful and saw the Xolos miss the playoffs.
Helping Orlando City reach the playoffs for the first time won’t be easy, but Pareja will be inheriting a team that should have some roster flexibility to add some much-needed pieces to a squad that features Nani, Mauricio Pereyra and Dom Dwyer.
The Lions will be hoping Pareja can help establish the club’s player development system to develop the kind of success Pareja found at FC Dallas, where he helped turn Dallas into one of the best teams in MLS at developing homegrown talent.