CARSON, Calif. – Landon Donovan played for more than a decade alongside Pablo Mastroeni, first with the US national team and then for half of last season with the LA Galaxy, so he's got a pretty good feel for what the man's about.
He thinks Colorado Rapids fans are in for a treat.
Mastroeni, who took the Rapids' head coaching job after retiring in December, is a “great teammate, a great leader” and has the qualities to become a top coach in MLS, says Donovan, who leads that Galaxy (2-1-2) against their Western Conference rivals on Saturday in Commerce City, Colo. (9 pm ET, MLS Live).
“I don't see any reason why Pablo couldn't lead a team to an MLS Cup,” Donovan said after LA's training session Thursday at StubHub Center. “If he really wants this and he's passionate about it, he can be as good as he wants to be. He's as bright a guy as I've ever played with, and he's very passionate, and I think he will certainly always have the respect of his players, and he'll get the most out of his players.”
Donovan says Mastroeni is “very clear in the way he sees the game” and that “he's one of the players that has positively used his experiences and learned a lot.”
“It doesn't necessary equate,” he said. “Just because you're a great player doesn't always mean that you're going to be a great coach or that you understand the game the right way, but Pablo does very much so, and I think he has a clear sense of the way he wants to play the the way the game should be played.”
Mastroeni follows former Real Salt Lake (and now New York City FC) coach Jason Kreis, D.C. United's Ben Olsen, New England's Jay Heaps, Toronto FC's Ryan Nelsen and Columbus' Gregg Berhalter as coaches who stepped from the field into head-coaching positions, and another 10 head coaches in the league enjoyed extensive playing careers, with LA's Bruce Arena and Seattle's Sigi Schmid the most successful current MLS coaches without such backgrounds. Donovan sees this trend as a positive.
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“I think as a general statement, it's much better to have someone who played the game at a high level talking to you than someone who didn't,” Donovan said. “And, inevitably, there are times during the season when a player has a certain opinion of something, and [it can help] if he can hear a different opinion from someone who's been in the trenches and understands what it's like.”
Mastroeni, who was Donovan's teammate at the 2002 and 2006 World Cups, has the Rapids off to a 3-2-2 start, with victories at Vancouver and Toronto and a season-opening draw at New York. They're coming off a 4-1 loss at home to Seattle.
“I think they have done a very good job under Pablo,” Donovan said. “They've gone on the road and gotten some very good results against good teams, and I think they've been pretty good at home. I think when he has time to help shape and mold the team the way he wants, they're going to get even better.”