DENVER – This side of the NBA, just about every player in every sport will speak positively, at least in public, on behalf of a newly named head coach.
But when Colorado Rapids players speak about new head coach Pablo Mastroeni, there appears to be a genuine excitement, one that has been expressed in no uncertain terms by players ever since the 37-year-old club legend was officially appointed on Saturday.
“I couldn’t be happier for my friend Pablo,” defender and team captain Drew Moor told MLSsoccer.com on Saturday. “He still has that player's mentality, which is good for us players, because I think his whole thing is that he wants to be sure that the 11 guys that start the game are ready to go, 100 percent.”
Of the 28 players on the current roster, 18 have played with Mastroeni, a Rapids leader from 2002 until he was traded to the Galaxy last June. Mastroeni played for several years with almost all of the Rapids’ key veterans, including midfielder Brian Mullan, who was on hand for Mastroeni’s introduction as head coach at a supporters gathering on Saturday in downtown Denver.
“I think it’s a great decision,” Mullan said of Mastroeni’s appointment. “I think he keeps things in perspective. He knows what the players want and need and how to get the best out of them.”
The teammate component aside, players are plenty excited for other reasons, too. Mastroeni has made it a point to trust his players, from letting them go out to dinner on their own during the preseason to holding shorter practices to letting his assistant coaches take control of large parts of those practices.
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The effect has been tangible on the players, who appear in the early going to be enjoying training sessions more, and they all – perhaps predictably, but moreso genuinely – say all the right things.
“I don’t think it’s going to be any crazy transition,” Moor said. “Pablo’s just someone who I’ve always respected so much as an authority figure, because of what he did on the field when he was a player. He’s been in a coaching type of role for the past three or four seasons, in my opinion. He’ll always be my friend without doubt, but he’s always had my full respect as an authority figure.”
Chris Bianchi covers the Colorado Rapids for MLSsoccer.com.