FC Dallas coach Óscar Pareja returned to the team for Sunday’s first leg of the MLS Western Conference finals after the death of his mother earlier in the week.
PORTLAND, Ore. — FC Dallas coach Óscar Pareja’s preparation for his team’s MLS Western Conference final series took a tragic turn when his mother died on Thursday. Pareja still coached in Sunday’s 3–1 loss to the Portland Timbers after flying to Barranquilla, Colombia, to be with family and rejoining the team on Saturday night.
“It has been a difficult week, for sure,” Pareja said after the game. “I don’t have enough words to tell you how difficult it has been, but I was very happy to be with my players today. … After a terrible week and a week that creates a lot of emotions in my family, I came back and found a group that is willing to do what we do, and that relieved my spirit.”
The Dallas players wore black armbands on Sunday to honor Martha Cecilia Gómez de Pareja. The players said they also wanted to get a win for their coach, but they were confident they could reverse the deficit at home next week.
“We’re a family here, so every time we step on the field, we’re working for each other,” defender Ryan Hollingshead said. “This circumstance, of course, gives us a little chip on our shoulder. It’s something to work for even more. It’s not a result we obviously wanted to give to [Pareja], and now we just have to go earn it at home.”
Dallas conceded twice, on goals by Liam Ridgewell and Dairon Asprilla, before David Texeira scored a crucial away goal in the 62nd minute to draw the team within one. Nonetheless, Nat Borchers put away a stoppage-time corner kick to extend the lead to two again before the final whistle.
“It was a poor start for us in the first half,” Pareja said. “I thought we reacted well, and then the second half was pretty even. We gave up the result on plays that we can control; the set-piece play from us today wasn’t good enough. Fortunately, we scored a goal, and I think we leave the series open.”