CARSON, Calif. – Pablo Mastroeni left his family back in Colorado when he was traded to the LA Galaxy in late June, and so his return this weekend to Denver for the Galaxy's game against the Rapids means far more than just a chance to take on his former club.
It's a true homecoming, a chance to see his wife, Kelly, and their children, 8-year-old son Luca and 6-year-old daughter Giuliana, whom he has seen in the past month or so only through the Internet.
Head coach Bruce Arena has granted the veteran midfielder an extra day at home following Saturday's clash (7 pm ET, ESPN2), and Mastroeni is thankful for it, but his family won't join him in Southern California until they've sold their house.
“There isn't [a target date],” said Mastroeni, who played 11-and-a-half seasons in Colorado. “It keeps getting moved or pushed back, depending on whether we have offers on the house, and we've had a few and they've kind of reneged on their offers. It's life, you know? You try to make plans, but it's impossible.”
Kelly and the kids will be at the game, of course, and Mastroeni figures to be in LA's lineup if Robbie Rogers, dealing with a hamstring injury, isn't available. He made his first start for the Galaxy in last week's victory over Vancouver, teaming with Juninho in the middle as Marcelo Sarvas shifted to the left flank in Rogers' absence. Head coach Bruce Arena was pleased.
“Looks like the player we know,” Arena said. “It's taken him a little time to get in form, and he still needs a little more time, but he's an experienced player, he's worked well in the center of midfield with our team, and hopefully we can continue to move him forward.”
Mastroeni, who had made four brief appearances off the bench and went 90 minutes in a Reserve League game for LA, was happy “just to get my feet wet.” He's ready to provide whatever is asked of him and admits playing at Dick's Sporting Goods Park is going to be special.
“I think it's going to be an emotional game for me,” he said. “It doesn't make sense to get ramped up four days before to where you can't sleep and you overthink things. Obviously, it's great to see the wife and kids and to play in a stadium that I played in for a lot of years and then to be in front of fans and play against a lot of good friends of mine. When the whistle blows, you're out there to do a job, and that'll be the focus.”
The Galaxy brought in Mastroeni to bolster their depth and leadership, and he's fulfilling everything they've asked of him.
“People on the outside don't hear him, but he's really like a coach on the field, organizing, keeping guys alert, keeping himself alert,” associate head coach Dave Sarachan said. “Just draws on so much experience. We know the fitness is a little bit of an issue – coming here, he had to ramp that part up – but as far as his organization and leadership and experience, it's very invaluable, and I thought it worked out pretty well against Vancouver.”
Mastroeni hopes he can contribute to a victory over the Rapids, and that's his primary objective. But his kids miss their daddy, and he certainly misses them. That will be the real highlight of this trip.
“FaceTime has probably been the greatest invention for me,” he said. “We do it in the mornings, we do it at night, and, obviously, it doesn't fill the void, but it's as close as you can get to being connected while you're going through this transition period. You can perceive [the separation] to be a negative in life, or you can learn and be grateful, and when they get here, I'll definitely be more plugged in than in the past, realizing how important they are to me.”