Oscar Pareja's tactics and management in 2013 will probably make or break how well the talented squad does.
We've talked about a lot of stuff this off-season. The production of the center forward position. How the competition of the left back spot is going to end up. How Pablo Mastroeni is going to come back and inject that leadership into the squad in what might be his final season. Who is going to step up with Martin Rivero and Jaime Castrillon injured.
All of that stuff is going to be irrelevant if Oscar Pareja doesn't improve as a manager in his second season.
I would argue that Pareja's tactical improvement is going to be the biggest catalyst this season. Last season, to steal a baseball statistic, his WAR was probably -5 or so. Pareja wanted to win every game, which kept the team from getting many draws out of games they had leads in. Pareja wanted to tinker with his tactics whenever something didn't work, which saw things like 4-1-4-1 formations, Drew Moor in the midfield and, most horrifically, Omar Cummings at target forward for 1000 minutes. (I'm not dropping this!)
Now, we have seen some evolution in his ability to manage. Paul Bravo said at one point that Pareja now understood that playing for a tie was actually an all right strategy sometimes. (Not that Pareja is going to turn into Gary Smith, but you get the idea.) In preseason, we've seen a slight change to the 4-3-3 that has a lot more linking in the midfield instead of the 'two attackers, one defender' 4-3-3 of last season.
We're going to have to see if that promise turns into results. This is a talented squad, and they don't necessarily need a brilliant manager to get them through. They simply a manager that doesn't hamper things like Pareja did last season.