He is currently in his seventh year as an MLS head coach. In a recent interview, Landon Donovan listed Pareja among the qualified candidates for USA head coach.
SOCCER AMERICA: Newly appointed U.S. men's national team manager Earnie Stewart has been charged with hiring a new head coach and instilling and supervising a style of play vision. What do you think the U.S. style of play should be?
OSCAR PAREJA: I believe that our way of life is directly connected to the game. Players have a style of life in this country that has to be recognized, valued and expressed on the soccer field without yearning for other styles or ways. It will reflect the evolution of soccer in America throughout the years.
The willingness to compete, the energy, the individualism combined with the teamwork, the discipline combined with the freedom, the pragmatism, the desire for progress, the creativity, the diversity, are some of the most remarkable characteristics of this society. These characteristics are fundamental in our style of play and will drive soccer players in this country to be better than others.
The ”eclectic way,” in which we continue to evolve, is incredible in this country and makes us unique. That is the spirit of the American soccer player. That conviction will dictate, naturally, the evolution of the national team. Coaches and players who embrace and understand the American way of life.• Pareja, whose playmaking skills earned him the nickname El Generalito, helped Colombia win the 1987 U-20 South American Championship - the nation's first continental title. He made his professional debut with Independiente Medellin at age 19, became the team's captain at age 20, and earned 11 caps with full national team. After moving to Deportivo Cali, he helped it win its first Colombian league title in more than two decades. Pareja started youth coaching near the end of his playing career with FC Dallas while helping out with the North Texas ODP.
SA: Beyond the choice of who should be the head coach, what do you think U.S. Soccer should or could do to improve American soccer? And by improve, let's define that as producing world-class players and being a serious contender to win the World Cup.
OSCAR PAREJA: I think every country has its own values and cultural habits that make each of them unique. The U.S. needs someone who can develop and bring out the American identity, not try to replicate that of another country. There has to be someone who can outline a plan of international competition needed to guide us back to the World Cup. We need to improve the identification of the real talent in the youth programs, keep improving the coaching preparation in all the levels, improve the connection between MLS and the U.S. Soccer Federation.
We need to find an efficiency in the training with a method that can get players to respond and make them find solutions to the difficulties that the game brings them. Finally, we need to get the academy programs more competitive and bring the passion out of the players who simply love playing the game.
SA: The USA failing to qualify for the 2018 World Cup unleashed avalanche of criticism toward U.S. Soccer. In what areas do you think the Federation is on the right track?
OSCAR PAREJA: Academy programs are advancing across the country. Education programs are more diverse and will bring more creativity in coaching methods.
The U-20s and U-17s are producing good international results and are bringing quality players up through the system.
The friendly games are very meaningful after the failure of missing the World Cup and I see us looking within ourselves to find the answers to the issues, which is a positive step forward.
SA: What can MLS do to help the progress of the U.S. national team?
OSCAR PAREJA: First, there need to be more Homegrown signings to the rosters. From there, I think you can establish a rule for game-day rosters, having a certain number of players under-24, -20 or -17 playing.
There has to be a focus to involve more domestic players into the roster. And lastly, the time off during the offseason has to be reduced. We all, as players, coaches, MLS and U.S. Soccer need to commit with more time on the training ground and more competition, which will continue to improve our level of play.
SA: What can be improved in American youth soccer that can help the USA become a world soccer power?
OSCAR PAREJA: I recognize and admire the talent and character of the American player. Our boys are very good and I’m confident they can compete against any team in the world, but that has to be supported with work on the field. Earning the possibility of competing in any league and any team, and also earning the right to be part of the national team programs.
The character, determination and passion for this game has to be brought into the fields, but we need to combine it with the capacity to think, make decisions and have the personality to create without the fear of mistakes.
SA: Anything else you'd like to add or address?
OSCAR PAREJA: In soccer, this country has a potential that other countries found and succeed with: diversity! What at many times can divide us can also make us very strong on the field.
• Tony Meola on the USA style of play quest, youth national team success, and young Americans going abroad
• Todd Beane: The USA has an opportunity to astound the world with a new brand of soccer
• Andres Cantor on the U.S. national teams of the past, the next coach and countries U.S. should (or shouldn't) emulate
• Ian Barker on a U.S. style of play, producing No. 10s, and coaching schools in the USA
• Hugo Perez on style of play: 'The USA has the players to play possession-oriented, offensive soccer'
• Landon Donovan on a U.S. style of play, what worked in the past, and who should coach the USA
• Nico Romeijn and Ryan Mooney on U.S. Soccer coaching education: the Federation's intentions and its capabilities and capacity