We are finally at the end of this terrible season. There is one match left and more than likely the team will miss out on the playoffs. Some people have mentioned that this could possibly be the worst collapse in MLS history. If that’s not true, it certainly feels as if it is. The most frustrating part of these past four months is not truly understanding why this is happening. Is it the players? Is there a rift in the locker room? Is it exhaustion? Is it the coaching? Or is it just bad luck? Most of the factors are easily changeable going into next year. However, there is one thing that will stay the same, Oscar. Without a doubt, he will be back and hopefully back to his old coaching ways.
In the meantime, I had a conversation with Mo to try to get another perspective on everything. Enjoy.
First off. Should Oscar be the head coach going into next year?
Mo: Absolutely. Papi has earned the right to have one bad season as a head coach and, boy oh boy, do I ever think he has coached poorly over the last few months. As fans, we can be very critical as “couch coaches” at times, but I would say many of the criticisms that have been sent his and his coaching staff’s way have been warranted.
What do you think has been Oscar’s biggest success this year?
Jared: Getting us to the semifinals of the CCL was probably the biggest achievement. Granted the team beat an Arabe Unido side that wasn’t that strong, but we still got there. To me, the biggest success was getting the fanbase to believe that we deserved to be on the same field as Pachuca. The team that we have been watching for the last three months feels like it would be mopped off their field at this point. We all had so much excitement and belief back then and most of the credit has to go to Papi.
What about you?
Mo: Man, I don’t even know if anything really sticks out after the MLS season started. I guess, the usual hot start for the team in the Western Conference and keeping the team afloat and performing well when Matt Hedges and Kellyn Acosta left to the first international break was an accomplishment. It has all gone downhill since then, though, unfortunately.
What do you think Pareja messed up the most this year?
Jared: It’s got to be the reliance on “his” guys right? We have been crying out for lineup changes but haven’t gotten them. It’s the same 11 to 13 guys over and over again. He has been sending out a lineup, it not working, realigning that same lineup with basically no changes and hoping for a different result. In a lot of ways, it feels like Papi has lost his way a bit during the second half of the season. He got away from playing the kids, the young guys, who aren’t scared of anything. This team has been yearning for someone to come into it on game day with some fight and energy. Instead, they having nothing but calloused, older players who seem to continue to jam the square peg into that round hole.
Do you agree or no?
Mo: Without a doubt. I think as the team gave up on Oscar, Oscar refused to give up on the team. While that loyalty can be admirable to some extent, a sign of a good leader is one who is willing to make the necessary changes for the sake of the team. You must have that proper blend between loyalty and innovator. What bothers me the most, for someone who was touted as a revolutionary and one who is willing to bring soccer in America to the next levels, Pareja has been static and lethargic in his decision-making this season. What happened to the brilliance in trusting your youth that got you to these levels? That has been Papi’s biggest failure, in my opinion. Not only has he gotten away from the identity of what made Dallas a powerhouse in MLS, but he also failed to recognize it in the name of loyalty or whatever it was that keeps some of these older players on the field. I have seen arrogance from him, and not in a good way.
Am I wrong in that aspect?
Jared: I don’t think so. The failures of this season are way more than just one singular issue, but they all stem from the top. Papi wasn’t/hasn’t been able to deal with the departure of Fabian Castillo. Instead of changing the playing style up, he has tried to force players into the black-hole that is the wing opposite of Michael Barrios. He has struggled with having the guys believing in themselves.
It seems like it stems from that USOC loss against Sporting KC. From that moment, this team has looked timid, which is crazy to me. How does this team lose faith in what they are doing? In a lot of ways, this season has showed me how much Oscar still has to grow as a manager. His first trick or move in managing is a really good one, but what happens when that doesn’t work, then what? I’m not convinced that Papi really knows what to do next.
What are you expectations of Oscar going forward?
Mo: Look, I have always been a firm believer in the saying, “if you love someone enough, you have to be willing to be critical of them.” Papi has to have a bounce-back season in which this team is a contender for MLS Cup next season or real questions need to be asked about the entire technical department. For an organization who came out and bluntly stated that MLS Cup was their priority this year, it would be a glaring disappointment to not make the playoffs. The seat will be very hot under Oscar Pareja if the team starts off poorly or if we have another season of playoff exodus (assuming we don’t qualify or bow out early this year). I never thought I would be saying that after a two trophy campaign last year. Play the kids and succeed with them. “It is not too much to ask for,” said no one ever.
Finally, what do you need to see out of Oscar Pareja to ease your concerns in the next few months of soccer action?
Jared: I think it all boils down to expectations right? We came into this season with the possibility of winning CCL and MLS Cup. We thought the first eight months of the season were going to be an appetizer to a deep playoff run. That certainly hasn’t been the case, up to this point. Now, with that being said, if FC Dallas decides to blow this thing up and give the keys to next group of youngsters, while keeping around a couple of veteran players to mentor them, then fine. However, I don’t see that happening next year, especially with the new Hall of Fame being unveiled.
I assume this team will change a few pieces (Cannon for Grana - please God) re-rack and give this thing another run next year. With all that being said, Oscar has earned the wiggle room he is being awarded at this moment. Going forward though, I want to see this squad back to playing the way they were six months ago. I need to see that unrelenting faith in the system and lack of fear from the players. This squad will never have this biggest payroll or best overall roster, but they should always have that annoying determination where they just keep coming at opponents. They have lost that this year and need to find it again.
Thanks again to Mo for helping me out with this article. The Oscar situation is definitely a complicated one. Yes, he deserves to be here another year, but how much longer than that? I don’t know. The Hunt’s aren’t a rash ownership group that makes quick, knee jerk reactions. So, Oscar will absolutely be back next year. Hopefully he is able to rid himself of his current demons and get back on the right path.