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Q & A with Oscar Pareja

Oscar Pareja leads the FC Dallas Development Academy Program, and he leads it well. Pareja has seen several of his players called into almost every U.S. Youth National Team age group, from the Under-17 to the Under-20 Men’s National Team. Last week, Pareja got his own U.S. National Team call-up, with the former Colombia international and U.S. U-17 Men’s National team assistant coach traveling to California as assistant coach for a domestic U.S. U-15 Boys’ National Team camp. Pareja took some time to speak with ussoccer.com about his experience with the U-15 BNT and the ties between the Youth National Teams and Development Academy clubs.

ussoccer.com: What is it like being part of the National Teams again? You were a member of the U.S. Under-17 Men’s National Team staff and went to FC Dallas. Now you’re back with the U.S. U-15 camp in California.

Oscar Pareja: “For me it is always an honor to represent soccer in any way in this country, and being part of the national team is a privilege. It is a way as well for me to stay in touch with the coaches, with their philosophies that they want to implement. It is a way for me as well to know the players, the level and the standards, so we can go back to our home town and not have problems trying to emulate and do the same. But at least everyone is on the same page in that part.”

ussoccer.com: Do you see a difference now with these young players than, say, four years ago when you were with the Under-17s, as far as their development?

OP: “All the cycles are different. Obviously, the players are different. Now the philosophy is evolving as well. Before, when I was in Bradenton, I got a very good group of players and staff. You can tell that the players are, in some way, developing, they’re changing; their generation and the cycles are different. You find different kinds of players with qualities and different abilities and that’s what makes it different. Other than that, the problem with the national team, with our new philosophies and staff, is changing. We’re all adjusting to it and trying to do the best we can to fulfill the goals that they have.”

ussoccer.com: You have so many players go through your system that have been called in to different U.S. Youth National Teams. How do you keep in touch with the different national team coaches when you’re at FC Dallas, and how do you translate that to your players?

OP: “One of the good experiences I had when I was in Bradenton was an opportunity to know all the national team staff and coaches, the people running the different age groups. This helps us all because we have to be connected in order to serve the purposes of the development of the players, and I continue to keep in touch with all the staff. In this case with the U-15s, I talk a lot with Tony Lepore about what we can do better at FC Dallas in order to have the players at this stage be at the standard that they need for the national team. I think this kind of communication helps us a lot because at the end of the day, our primary goal at FC Dallas is not just to develop players to the first team but to try to get them involved with the national team programs at the early ages because that is the top, and we know that is the standard we have to follow.”

ussoccer.com: When your FC Dallas players go to a National Team camp and then come back, how do they help your other players develop? How does that help the Development Academy in general?

OP: “Representing your country is so special and important. I think this happens everywhere and we also remember that from our time as players. When players go to the National Teams, something changes in their life. They have to know that they are special players, that they have a special opportunity. Once they come to the national team and then come back to their club, they have to reflect that. They have to be an example and to be role models. They have to show their other teammates why they have been called to the National Team. This happens to the players in our programs and we can see it in the other players, they follow these guys and we hear them ask, ‘How is the national team? How is the level? How are their practices? How are the coaches? How is the competition?’ All of this information gets to our programs through our players, which is probably more important than anything else. This is provided by the experience they have in the National Teams.”

ussoccer.com: How does bringing Development Academy coaches into U.S. National Team camps helps players realize that the Academy is the place to grow and be seen?

OP: “Every time you have the opportunity to participate in the different camps with the national teams, you go as a coach because there is always something new. You get to know the players and, you have these relationships established with other people who are running the programs. I think it’s seen by the players with a lot of respect and as I said at the beginning, we understand that it’s a privilege to be sharing these opportunities at these camps.”


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