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Pablo Mastroeni still in charge of Colorado Rapids with one eye on permanent spot, other on opener

COMMERCE CITY, Colo. – For newcomers to Colorado Rapids preseason practices, it’s still strange to see Pablo Mastroeni standing on the side of the field in his new role as the club’s designated caretaker.

The question hovering over Mastroeni and the Rapids now is whether he'll still be standing on the touchlines for the Rapids’ season opener on March 15 at Red Bull Arena?

While making his desire for the permanent role of head coach clear, Mastroeni said on Thursday he’s not fretting about the fact that the team still hasn’t named a coach – just eight days before the season opener.

“I feel like they’re adequately prepared [for the season opener],” Mastroeni told MLSsoccer.com on Thursday, “and would I like to be in that situation come New York? Yeah. Am I currently? No. But every day I wake up and I work like I’m going to be that guy.”

After officially announcing his retirement in December, the 37-year-old club legend was asked to take on the head coaching role on an interim basis after Oscar Pareja’s departure to FC Dallas in early January.

But more than two months after Pareja’s resignation became official, the Rapids have yet to officially name anyone as their permanent head coach, although there doesn’t appear to be another serious candidate besides Mastroeni for the position.

Mastroeni’s approach, meanwhile, has been to simply focus on what he can control: preparing Colorado for March 15.

“Not to speak in generalities, but I was asked to take these guys in the preseason to prepare them for the first game of the season,” Mastroeni said. “I think my staff and myself have done a very good job of that. These guys have developed a good idea as to what the expectations are of them come first day of the season.”

The Rapids, perhaps feeling burned by Pareja’s departure after just two years at the helm, have said they want a long-term solution for their next coaching position, and team president Tim Hinchey also said the Rapids intend to take their time in finding that person.

They’ve certainly lived up to the promise of taking their time. But the question hanging over the club’s fan base – is it Pablo or is it not – isn’t one that Mastroeni says he’s personally worried about.

“The only real measure [of how it’s worked so far] is how they come to work every day,” Mastroeni said last month. “I think if they came in lethargic or if they came in with a bad attitude, then maybe I’d say we could do things a little differently here. But there hasn’t been one session where there’s been a lack of energy.”

Chris Bianchi covers the Colorado Rapids for MLSsoccer.com.