Pablo Mastroeni appears to be the man in charge of the Colorado Rapids at least for the near future, and possibly for the rest of 2014 and beyond.
The former club icon led the team’s first full-team training in Commerce City, Colo., on Wednesday and has been put in charge of workouts until a decision is made on the head-coaching vacancy.
Hired out of retirement earlier this month as the club’s new special assistant to technical director Paul Bravo, Mastroeni told The Denver Post this week that not only is he interested in replacing Oscar Pareja at the helm, but he’s effectively auditioning for the job while running the team’s winter workouts.
“That’s how I’m preparing myself,” Mastroeni told the Post. “I don’t know any other way. I’ve never been a guy to fake anything. I wear my heart on my sleeve. So whatever I do, I do with 100 percent commitment. I’m driven. As it stands, I’ll be leading these guys — and hopefully making it difficult to be replaced.”
Mastroeni said that he has not been formally interviewed for the job, but that he’s also unaware that any other candidates have spoken with the club either.
He also said he has not received many questions from players about the club’s coaching limbo, and that the group has responded well so far to his presence leading the club.
“They look at me as someone with the capability of being that guy,” he told the Post. “If you get a kit man to step into that role as head coach, it might be a different scenario. But I have a lot of respect for these guys. I think they have the same for me. As a former player in that locker room, I know a lot of these guys personally. The mutual respect is there.
“When they were told I was in charge of the preseason, it’s clear.”
Pareja resigned from the club earlier this month and took the head coaching position at FC Dallas, leaving the Rapids in need of a fix less than two months before the regular season begins. Bravo handled the club’s duties at the MLS SuperDraft on Jan. 16, but the club will head to Houston this week for their first preseason test without a permanent head coach in place.
“I don’t feel stressed. I don’t feel nervous. I don’t feel handcuffed,” Mastroeni told the Post. “Life is kinda crazy. You are where you’re supposed to be. If not, you wouldn’t be there. I don’t want to get too esoteric. But that’s the way I’m looking at it. I’m not trying to squeeze a square peg in a round hole.”
Rapids president Tim Hinchey said earlier this month that the club will take its time finding Pareja’s replacement, but hinted that Mastroeni could be a solution. Mastroeni is the most decorated player in club history and holds club records for most games played (225), games started (217) and minutes played (18,669).
“There’s a reason that Pablo’s back, and that’s because he cares about the club. He wants to be here,” Hinchey said earlier this month. “We want him around the club, and at some point, if I wear my fan’s hat, if he becomes coach, it’d be cool for me. But ultimately, it’ll be determined by [technical director] Paul Bravo and what’s right for everyone.”