Óscar Pareja remains silent regarding FC Dallas rumors

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SEATTLE — Colorado Rapids head coach Óscar Pareja faced reporters in the away locker room with red eyes after his team’s playoff run ended with a 2-0 loss to the Seattle Sounders on Wednesday. He spoke of his pride in the way his team played all season.

It’s no surprise, then, that his response to rumors about him being in line for the FC Dallas coaching job was tepid.

“With all my respect … I’m the head coach of the Colorado Rapids today,” he said. “For the respect of my players and the effort that they put in today, it’s not a question that I will address.”

However, it is a question that had to be asked.

After 11 years playing in his native Colombia and with Major League Soccer’s New England Revolution, Pareja found a home at FC Dallas (then called the Dallas Burn). He spent seven seasons there as a player, retiring to become the franchise’s academy director in 2005.

He turned the FC Dallas Academy into the best in MLS, churning out six Homegrown Player signings who made it to the first team, and was named the United States Soccer Development Academy Coach of the Year in 2009. Pareja was an assistant coach for the U.S. under-17 team in 2007-08.

So when Schellas Hyndman announced his resignation as FC Dallas head coach following a disappointing 2013 season two weeks ago, Pareja’s name was one of the first thrown around the rumor mill as a possible replacement. In two years, Pareja turned the Rapids into an MLS force with a young squad that includes Rookie of the Year candidates Deshorn Brown and Dillon Powers.

“I’m proud of what the boys have done during this season,” he said after Wednesday’s loss. “I feel bad for them because I know they wanted to advance, but that’s the game.”

His hunger to succeed and his insistence on an attractive style of play make Pareja an attractive candidate. Unlike many coaches who receive opportunities at the top upon retirement, he worked his way up from being a youth coach to managing an MLS team.

“My philosophy is: I battle for every day, for every game,” he said. “I want to win every game, whether it’s in the season, whether it’s in the playoffs or the offseason, and that’s the way I feel. That’s the way I play the game. If you ask me today, I feel terrible. I’m not happy, obviously. I can see great things that happened in the season, but we are competitors here, and obviously, there is some bitter in this result. But as I say, we keep moving forward, and nothing else we can do.”

For now, Pareja will move forward as the Rapids’ head coach. After building up steam for two seasons, perhaps leaving at this point would create a sense of unfinished business that he does not want. But if Dallas — his first MLS employer, which gave him a shot and laid the foundation of his career — calls, sentimentality could prevail.

Report: Newcastle activates $12m release clause of ex-Arsenal youth

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Reports out of Turkey say Newcastle United have finally struck the transfer market for a new No. 10.

[ MORE: West Ham adds Diop ]

Aksam reports that Rafa Benitez got the Magpies hierarchy to activate a near $12 million release clause for Besiktas midfielder Oguzhan Ozyakup.

The 25-year-old was part of Arsenal’s youth set-up until 2012, making two League Cup appearances in 2011-12 before moving to Besiktas.

Dutch-born Ozyakup is 35-times capped with a goal for Turkey, twice captaining the Crescent-Stars.

Ozyakup lost playing time to Talisca this season, and registered just four assists in 24 appearances. In 219 appearances for Besiktas, he’s posted 27 goals with 50 assists.

Like the move for Newcastle?

Lukaku pens inspiring post on hard-scrabble upbringing

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Manchester United and Belgium striker Romelu Lukaku has an inspiring and emotional post in The Players’ Tribune which tugs at the heart strings and explains his competitive fire.

[ MORE: West Ham adds Diop ]

Lukaku talks about how his family’s poverty caused him to become a fierce competitor in the hopes of meeting his dreams head-on and providing for his family.

The Belgian, 25, scored twice in his side’s 3-0 World Cup-opening win over Panama earlier this week, and is now far removed from his youth, but he tells his story as if it lives fresh in his mind.

From The Players’ Tribune:

There were even times when my mum had to “borrow” bread from the bakery down the street. The bakers knew me and my little brother, so they’d let her take a loaf of bread on Monday and pay them back on Friday.

Lukaku also talks about racism in football, his debut for Anderlecht, and that aforementioned competitive drive. It’s 100 percent worth the read.

West Ham signs club record center back from Toulouse

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West Ham has reportedly set a club record with its latest signing under new manager Manuel Pellegrini.

Issa Diop is the player, the 21-year-old Toulouse captain and center back costing the Irons around $29 million.

[ MORE: Arsenal signs Leno ]

Diop scored three goals with an assist and eight yellow cards in 31 Ligue 1 matches this season, giving the young defender 95 apps, six goals, three assists, and 23 yellows since debuting with the senior team at 18.

Capped by France at every level below the senior team, Diop’s 2.2 interceptions per game ranked sixth in Ligue 1.

Toulose finished 18th in Ligue 1, but won its promotion/relegation playoff to stay in the French top flight.

From WHUFC.com:

“I am very happy to sign for such a historic, English club, and I hope to show my best here. I am a very ambitious player and West Ham is a very ambitious club, as we’ve seen with the appointment of the new coach. I hope to help the team win lots of games and make the fans happy.”

Layla’s Occasionally Unbiased Football Show: Episode 3

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In the third episode of Layla’s Occasionally Unbiased Football Show, England pulls out a massive win while VAR finds its way into the World Cup spotlight.

[ LIVE: World Cup scores ] 

There will be plenty more to come over the next few weeks, with the show coming via the Men In Blazers.

Click play on the video above to watch the first episode in full.