FRISCO, Texas — After the trophy had been lifted, confetti cannons had been fired and photos had been taken, FC Dallas owner and president Dan Hunt pulled aside coach Oscar Pareja.
The coach had just led his team to a dominant 4-2 victory in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup, not only snapping a 19-year-long trophy drought for the club but also bringing home a title that bears the name of the late father of Dan Hunt and his brother and co-owner Clark.
Dan Hunt, surely congratulating Oscar Pareja on a job well done. pic.twitter.com/nvCWluFIUx— Jon Arnold (@ArnoldcommaJon) September 14, 2016
"I told him I loved him," Hunt told Goal USA. "That’s the friendship we have. He’s a special friend. Earlier today we were talking via text and he sent me and my brother a great message, and I just thanked him for believing in us. He could’ve gone a lot of places, but he believed in what we were doing here and he’s so important to this club. I thanked him, and I told him, ‘Now you have to smile! The pressure is off.’"
Pareja was smiling after the game, even as he turned his attention toward other titles that could come. FCD returns to training Wednesday afternoon with the focus on a weekend match at New York City FC, where it can maintain a lead in the Supporters' Shield race with a victory. Still, the coach is taking the owner's advice to enjoy the good moments.
"I’m very happy, very thankful to the fans who supported us, to all our guys who have done a tremendous job," Pareja said after the match. "The guys want to keep moving this club forward. They’re committed to winning, which isn’t easy. Winning titles isn’t easy, but we now can celebrate the first. Surely, we’re going to keep looking for more, and I’ve think I’ve got a team totally focused on that."
Hunt's observation that Parjea could've coached elsewhere is far from off-base. Long considered one of the United States' most exciting young coaches, Pareja left the Colorado Rapids after two years of leading that team to come back to a place he now considers home.
And while North Texas certainly is home for the man known simply as "Papi" around the organization, he wouldn't be the coach - or the man - he is without the influence of his home country of Colombia.
"There are many characteristics that we can talk about, but the influence that we have from South America, I'd say the influence we have probably from Colombia, which has been a country that has overcome a hard decade, and we were being nerds in those times under coaches that were very strict and they were detail-oriented, working on a lot of tactical stuff. Maybe that created in us some pattern and some similarities," Pareja said earlier this month when asked about the obsessive detail he and other Colombian coaches go into when preparing for matches.
That preparation didn't hurt anything Tuesday. Though his team fell behind early, the team's talented midfield soon took over the game, with Carlos Gruezo and Kellyn Acosta plugging the middle and Mauro Diaz pulling the strings in a superb three-assist, one goal performance.
"We implemented Oscar’s system perfectly," Acosta told Goal USA. "That’s part of the game, sometimes it doesn’t go your way and you get scored on, but we stuck to it, kept pushing, kept fighting, luckily we got a goal right after."
From there, FCD bossed the match, ending the night with nine shots on target to the Revs' three and controlling possession in the first half before sitting back and absorbing New England's forays after the break. It was another night on which Pareja's lineup decisions worked out
"He’s been managing this roster extremely well," technical director Fernando Clavijo told Goal USA. "This team has been working together and Oscar has been putting things together. And we believe. We believe that we can win, we believe that we have a very good team and can win games and win championships."
A sell-out crowed turned up to see the squad lift the trophy, and the team has the look of a treble contender. Part of the reason Pareja's focus on winning trophies has been so intense is his love and passion for his players, many of whom he worked with coaching in the FCD Academy and then as an assistant, but also an appreciation for what the Dallas region has given to him and his family.
"I may say that this (title) represents what my story has been right here in America, just being a foreigner in a country that has raised me and my family and the club that has given me the chance to play for and also given me the chance to coach," Pareja said. "I came back here to Dallas for this group of players, for the academy, and I came back here from Colorado because I wanted to win with this club, and today was a night that I won’t ever forget."
Neither will the FC Dallas fans at Toyota Stadium on Tuesday night. Memories have been made that will last a lifetime. If Pareja has his way, he'll be making many more.