Rapids name Colombian Pareja head coach

The Colorado Rapids named Oscar Pareja its head coach Thursday.

Pareja, 43, replaces Gary Smith, who left the Rapids after last season. Pareja spent more than five years on the coaching staff at FC Dallas, and was also an assistant coach for the U.S. Under-17 team in 2007-08.

"I am honored to join such a great organization like the Colorado Rapids," he said. "This is a dream come true. We already have a great team and everyone is optimistic about what we can achieve this season and beyond."

The former Colombian international, who played 11 times for his country, spent eight years as a player in Major League Soccer with Dallas.

With Pareja at the helm, Dallas' youth system developed six first-team players - more than any other MLS club.

As head coach of Dallas' Under-18 team, Pareja was named Development Academy Coach of the Year in 2009, and the FC Dallas Academy was ranked first out of the top 78 youth clubs in the country in 2011.

"We're thrilled to welcome Oscar to the club," said Colorado president Tim Hinchey. "He was an exciting, attacking player who has also earned a lot of respect as a coach.

"His accomplishments at both the youth and professional levels show that he can be successful in the short term while building for the future. This is an exciting moment for the future of the Rapids."

Pareja started his professional career in 1987 with Independiente Medellin in his hometown. He joined Deportivo Cali in 1995 and the club claimed the league championship in 1996.

He moved to MLS in 1998 with the New England Revolution, but was traded to the Dallas franchise, then the Dallas Burn, that year.