Colorado Rapids coach Pablo Mastroeni defends rotation policy, but hints at more stable starting XI

COMMERCE CITY, Colo. – Prominent Colorado Rapids blogger Burgundy Wave put it perfectly on Sunday after the Rapids’ lineup was announced before their 3-1 home loss to Chivas USA:

The tongue-in-cheek remark came after another surprise-laden starting XI in Sunday’s loss, which missed perceived “regulars” Drew Moor, Chris Klute, Dillon Powers and Gabriel Torres, amongst others, as Colorado struggled in the defeat. Mastroeni has experimented with every nook and cranny of his lineup for two primary reasons: one, to keep his squad fresh, and two, to keep his team motivated and give everyone a shot.

But after Sunday’s loss, in which center back Shane O’Neill said communication errors played a part in the defensive mishaps, fan criticism mounted as supporters implored the first-year manager to play more regulars.

Mastroeni, who admitted he had to all but force Moor to the bench after the veteran defender initially protested not playing, said he was experimenting with his new set of players, but he plans to change his approach in the coming weeks.

“I think moving forward, ideally, you want to get a sense of continuity,” Mastroeni told reporters on Wednesday. “But I think it’s really important to, not only from a playing perspective to get guys on the field, but from a team perspective and to feel camaraderie and belief that we can win whether this guy’s in; the experienced player, the veteran, the rookie, the guy that just joined the team....and I think that sense of belief in [one’s] self is critical.”

Every player on the Rapids’ 28-man roster with six exceptions – newcomers Gale Agbossoumonde (acquired last week) and John Neeskens (signed Tuesday), defenders Grant Van De Casteele and Brenton Griffiths, third-string goalkeeper Joe Nasco and injured midfielder Brian Mullan – have all started at least one game for the Rapids this season, a striking figure considering the season isn’t even a third of the way through yet.

But Mastroeni is more concerned with his players’ physical level more than he is math – he said on Wednesday that he would never play anyone that’s even 80 percent healthy.

Despite that, he acknowledged that he wants to get more continuity in his lineups, and with only five games remaining prior to the three-week World Cup break, he said he expects to use more stable XIs in the coming weeks, starting with Saturday’s trip to Real Salt Lake and the first leg of the Subaru Rocky Mountain Cup (9:30 pm ET, MLSSoccer.com Free Stream of the Week).

“I think it’s a good opportunity to get guys out there,” Mastroeni said, while also stressing a string of early injuries played a role in his unpredictable lineups. “I think moving forward, this series of games leading up to the [World Cup break] will give us a good chance to kind of build that group will see the larger amount of the minutes moving forward.

Chris Bianchi covers the Colorado Rapids for MLSsoccer.com.