- Pareja guided FC Dallas to consecutive appearances in the tournament in 2016-17 and 2018.
MIAMI, Florida – A familiar face will be on hand to assist with the 2021 Scotiabank Concacaf Champions League Draw on Wednesday in the form of Orlando City SC Head Coach Oscar Pareja.
Pareja is no stranger to the SCCL, having guided fellow MLS side FC Dallas to consecutive appearances in the tournament in 2016-17 and 2018.
The Colombian manager is happy to be part of Wednesday’s Draw and expects nothing short of another exciting SCCL in 2021.
“I am very proud and happy to be able to represent MLS and my club, Orlando City. It is great to be part of such an important event like this one,” said Pareja in an exclusive interview with Concacaf.com.
Pareja’s FC Dallas team in the 2016-17 SCCL was coming off a 2016 in which they won both the MLS Supporters Shield and the U.S. Open Cup. It was a group of players motivated to make more history at the Concacaf level.
“I remember it very well because we were a team with great ambition to be champions of Concacaf, with a young team but a team that sought to win the title. It had won the Open Cup and also the Supporters Shield, so it had already aimed for big things. We competed against the best of the region with a lot of personality and it remains a great memory. I very much remember that FC Dallas team,” said Pareja.
In the 2016-17 group stage against Real Esteli of Nicaragua and Suchitepequez of Guatemala, FC Dallas had to rally from an early 2-0 deficit against Suchitepequez in their group finale just to punch their ticket to the knockout round. After eliminating Arabe Unido of Panama in the quarterfinals, FC Dallas faced eventual champions Pachuca in a memorable semifinal that saw the Liga MX team win 4-3 on aggregate with a last-minute goal.
“One big step was having the experience of going to win away in a different country. Some of our players had that previous experience but others hadn’t. We went to compete in Nicaragua and I think that our players felt that the tournament was very important. We went to Guatemala with the necessity of winning and being able to put ourselves in a position to play in the quarterfinals and then later in the semifinals against a big club like Pachuca. It just shows that every match is so competitive,” said Pareja.
While no team from outside of Liga MX has been able to win the SCCL, two of the last three finals have seen teams from MLS come within a whisker of winning the tournament. Taking into the account the growth of MLS teams and the ability of Central America teams to make a deep run in the tournament, Pareja feels like the competition in the SCCL is more even than ever.
“I think everything seems to be evening out. Before it was evident that the Mexican teams won the tournament in straightforward fashion, but now I think everyone realizes the importance of the growth of MLS in this country and now its teams are having very good performances in this tournament and they are contending for it. MLS is showing it can play these Concacaf tournaments at a high level.
“Before competing against Monterrey, Club America and Cruz Azul, there was a big difference. But now MLS teams are on par and the Honduran teams like Olimpia and Marathon, Saprissa and Alajuelense from Costa Rica, those teams are also having good performances. I think it’s a great tournament and we are enjoying the evolution of Central American and North American football. I think that the SCCL is on the rise,” concluded Pareja.