COMMERCE CITY, Colo. – On Friday night, Pablo Mastroeni did something he had never done in his 16 previous matches in charge of the Colorado Rapids: The rookie head coach posted the exact same lineup from the week prior in the 1-1 draw with the Columbus Crew at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park.
Following an impressive 2-0 win over the Vancouver Whitecaps, it was perhaps a sign that the coach is beginning to get a better feel for his starting 11.
Mastroeni has became somewhat famous for utilizing a wide variety of unpredictable lineups, starting nearly every player on his roster over the season’s opening three months due to a combination of injuries and tactical decisions.
But about six weeks ago, he said he wanted to begin arriving at a steadier starting group, perhaps culminating in Friday night’s choice to leave his lineup unchanged for the first time all season.
“Every day is different, every game poses more challenges. Teams have different formations and different mindsets, attitudes and schemes,” the notoriously philosophical Mastroeni told reporters after Friday's match. “On the day, it’s how do your players feel vs. how do their players feel? Were they prepared the right way? And then it just comes to chance.”
This surely will not last. Mastroeni has repeatedly said he expects all 30 players to contribute, and an admittedly lackluster performance in Friday night’s match will probably lead to changes sooner rather than later.
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But in the meantime, it is a sign of increased confidence in his squad, who are in the Western Conference’s third spot and 3-1-2 over their past six matches.
“Collectively as a group, it’s a great opportunity to come out of this game with a point and really reflect on what we need to do to now as we go on the road to a couple tough venues and just get better as a team,” Mastroeni said on Friday.
Chris Bianchi covers the Colorado Rapids for MLSsoccer.com.