COMMERCE CITY, Colo. – When you’re in MLS for 16 years, you meet a lot of people. But few people got to know Pablo Mastroeni over his lengthy career as well as Paul Bravo did, as a fellow player in the late 1990s, an assistant coach in the early 2000s and more recently as the Colorado Rapids’ technical director.
So when Bravo caught wind of the news Tuesday that Mastroeni had announced his retirement, Bravo offered the highest praise for Colorado's former captain.
“I’m so delighted for Pablo and all the success he’s had in his career, he’s truly, if not the greatest player in Rapids history ... he’s the only captain that has ever hoisted an MLS Cup for this club,” Bravo told MLSsoccer.com on Tuesday. “He’s played in multiple World Cups. He is truly an icon in my eyes. When you talk about the Colorado Rapids, he’s at the top of that list.”
Bravo and Mastroeni go back nearly two decades. When the future two-time World Cup veteran was a college senior, he joined the Rapids for a pre-draft visit while Bravo had just joined the club from the then-San Jose Clash. The Rapids didn’t end up drafting Mastroeni, but the two would cross paths again five years later.
When Bravo retired in 2002, he immediately became an assistant coach for Colorado, and the Rapids then selected Mastroeni in the dispersal draft after the Miami Fusion folded.
The rest, as they say, is history. Mastroeni went on to accumulate over 200 appearances while spending over a decade as a Rapid, wearing the armband as Colorado hoisted their lone MLS Cup trophy in 2010 (with Bravo as the club’s technical director), and playing a key role for the United States in the 2002 and 2006 World Cups.
For that, Bravo said, the club will always be grateful.
- Find more coverage of Mastroeni's retirement at ColoradoRapids.com
“I got to know Pablo very well,” Bravo said. “[I] got to see him grow from a very good player in this league to a World Cup star.”
Meanwhile, while battling concussion-related problems in 2012, Mastroeni considered joining the Rapids in a non-player role, and Bravo said it remains a possibility moving forward, although it doesn’t appear like it will happen in the immediate future.
“Prior to [Mastroeni’s June trade] to LA, we had talked long and hard about that, especially as we were going through the process last year with his injury status,” Bravo said. “But, we haven’t had any follow-up conversations on that.”
Chris Bianchi covers the Colorado Rapids for MLSsoccer.com.