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Mastroeni and the learning experience of last season

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Desert Diamond Cup

Mastroeni and the learning experience of last season

Arizona native has more time, experience to count on when preparing for 2015 campaign

  • Mastroeni prepares his players during the 2014 preseason. He's learned a lot since then, he says.
    Colorado RapidsMastroeni prepares his players during the 2014 preseason. He's learned a lot since then, he says.

This is Pablo Mastroeni’s second preseason as the head coach of the Colorado Rapids. There is a huge difference from the last preseason, however.

On the eve of the 2014 MLS Superdraft, then-coach Óscar Pareja left the team to become head coach of FC Dallas. The team named Mastroeni, a recently retired player who had spent 12 years as a member of the Rapids, as interim coach. The “interim” tag was finally dropped after preseason, but the Arizona native was still a rookie coach.

“Last year was an exercise in learning for me,” he said. “I learned when we were winning; I learned when we were losing.”

Not to be too cruel about it, he had quite a few chances to learn from losing. The team endured a seven-match losing streak in mid-summer, and didn’t win a game after a 3-0 victory over the hapless and now dissolved CD Chivas USA in late July.

“I learned incredible amounts when we were losing about the dynamics and psychology of the group, especially how it is affected by consecutive losses,” he said. “Last year was a great learning experience. This year, having an offseason where I can prepare and plan, that’s where my comfort lies.”

The comfort also comes from not having the “interim” in front of his title, and the questions about lines of authority that that entails.

“I spent countless hours every day in the office, making sure that the roles are going to be well defined. The philosophy I want to play, the mentality I want from the guys, those are all written down,” he said. “Everything prepared on day one.”

“Teaching the message, showing, educating; making sure that we have everyone on the same page,” he continued. “On the field, off the field, tactically, technically, emotionally, spiritually, mentally.”

Mastroeni is in a much better position to put his stamp on the team this year. Since the close of last season, the team declined options on eleven players. They also have brought in a few veterans, most notably former LA Galaxy and Polonia Warsawa standout Marcelo Sarvas, who should bolster a midfield that was far too easy for opponents to penetrate last year.

Whether it works or not is still to be seen, but it’s given them a place in the final of the Desert Diamond Cup. They will play that match on Saturday at 7 p.m. at Kino North Stadium.


Mastroeni is a two-time winner of the MLS Cup (with both Colorado and LA), but has also excelled at the international level. He has had 65 appearances for the U.S. national team, including two Gold Cup championships and appearances at the 2002 World Cup.

That career started here in Arizona. Mastroeni played high school soccer at Thunderbird and club soccer at Santos FC. On summer breaks from playing for North Carolina State, he played for the Tucson Amigos. It makes his time at Desert Diamond Cups a bit of a homecoming.

“It’s emotional. I saw my old coach Wolfgang Weber,” he said. “He was a coach I looked up to as a young player. Great spirit and a profound knowledge of the game and an ability to teach it to his players. It was something I’ll always remember playing for him in those Tucson Amigos days.”

The game in Tucson has moved on a lot from those days of the Amigos struggling to find fields to play on from week to week.

“Coming back to this complex and seeing the fanatical support, and seeing how big this can be in the future gives me goosebumps,” he said. “It’s something I hold inside and appreciate every day. Seeing what Jon [Pearlman] and Rick [Schantz] have gone not just for MLS but for the game of soccer in this state … the state has been crying out for this and it’s something special for Arizona.”

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