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Thank You Papi

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Long overdue, but better late than never.

MLS: Houston Dynamo at FC Dallas Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

Thank you Papi.

I’d been sitting on this piece for what feels like months now, but never found the energy to put it together. I jumped on to write here at BigD the same time Oscar Pareja came back to FC Dallas, so his arrival was always connected to mine in some weird way. So his exit was difficult to process. In fact, the first time I saw FC Dallas play in person was actually Pareja’s first game in charge - down in San Antonio for a pre-season friendly.

I don’t really remember the game, but I do remember a nice contingency of FCD fans made the trip, primarily made up of members of the Dallas Beer Guardians, and as Pareja made his first appearance on the field during warm ups, the fans erupted in the “Papi! Papi! Papi!” chant. It took all of three seconds for Pareja to turn, face the fans, smile and give a fist pump of approval as if to communicate, “I see you. I hear you. Thanks for being here. Let’s do this together.”

2014 was supposed to be a rebuilding year of sorts, and instead of that, Dallas’ “rebuild” never really materialized. Somehow Pareja, with all his guile and wisdom, figured out a way to simultaneously develop his players and still turn this side into a legit competing force for the duration of his coaching career.

Teams PPG since 2014

Club 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018 Total Average PPG
Club 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018 Total Average PPG
Atlanta United FC - - - 55 69 124 62 1.82
New York Red Bulls 50 60 57 50 71 288 57.6 1.69
Los Angeles Football Club - - - - 57 57 57 1.68
FC Dallas 54 60 60 46 57 277 55.4 1.63
Seattle Sounders 64 51 48 53 59 275 55 1.62
Sporting Kansas City 49 51 47 49 62 258 51.6 1.52
New York City FC - 37 54 57 56 204 51 1.50
Portland Timbers 49 53 44 53 54 253 50.6 1.49
Toronto FC 41 49 53 69 36 248 49.6 1.46
Columbus Crew 52 53 36 54 51 246 49.2 1.45
LA Galaxy 61 51 52 32 48 244 48.8 1.44
Vancouver Whitecaps FC 50 53 39 52 47 241 48.2 1.42
DC United 59 51 46 32 51 239 47.8 1.41
Real Salt Lake 56 41 46 45 49 237 47.4 1.39
New England Revolution 55 50 42 45 41 233 46.6 1.37
Philadelphia Union 42 37 42 42 50 213 42.6 1.25
Montreal Impact 28 51 45 39 46 209 41.8 1.23
Houston Dynamo 39 42 34 50 38 203 40.6 1.19
Colorado Rapids 32 37 58 33 31 191 38.2 1.12
Orlando City SC - 44 41 39 28 152 38 1.12
Chicago Fire 36 30 31 55 32 184 36.8 1.08
San Jose Earthquakes 30 47 38 46 21 182 36.4 1.07
Minnesota United FC - - - 36 36 72 36 1.06

Pareja’s 1.63 PPG as head coach of Dallas is second to only the New York Red Bulls for teams that have been around since Papi took over. Overnight, Dallas went from a team without a sense of identity or direction to a team that legitimately had a chance to compete for trophies on all fronts every year.

When you look at the table, and think about competing for the Shield, MLS Cup, Open Cup and CCL, there aren’t many (if any at all) that you could name and say they legitimately had a shot of winning anything for the past five years collectively.

This was a Golden Age that Pareja ushered in for this club and one that we might’ve missed and underappreciated. As fans, all we can realistically ask is for our teams to be competitive and in the conversation. Pareja gave us that and more.

So, thank you Papi. Thank you for making FC Dallas relevant. Thank you for showcasing the local talent and giving Dallas natives a chance to represent the city. Thank you for building the Academy, for creating a pipeline of talent for years to come. Thank you representing this club professionally with grace and confidence. Thank you for always being patient with the media. Thank you for always shouldering the blame when things go wrong, and always praising the players when things go well. Thank you Papi, for embracing Dallas and calling it your home. We wish you nothing but the best and will be cheering you on your next challenge with Club Tijuana and wait patiently for your return either back in Dallas or as the next USMNT coach.

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