COMMERCE CITY, Colo. – Pablo Mastroeni is certainly enjoying his life these days. The Colorado Rapids captain realizes his international career is all but over, but he’s focused on playing time with the team, his family and helping the Denver-area community he has made his home since 2002.
It has been a largely satisfying season for the veteran on the field, as he enjoys the fruits of a new midfield partnership with Jeff Larentowicz and a more dynamic attacking style allowing him to get into more advanced positions on the field.
As a result, Mastroeni, who on Saturday will tie the club record for most ever appearances in a Burgundy jersey, has already scored two goals this season, something he has never done for the Rapids before.
“It’s been an interesting year,” Mastroeni told MLSsoccer.com this week. “Any time that I can help the team in that regard is a bonus. We are a bit more dynamic in our attack, and finding ways when there are lulls in a game to try to change the pace up front. We are making [the opposition] question their defensive posture a bit.”
The 34-year-old’s satisfaction with his current life, however, comes from more than just what’s happening on the soccer field.
Mastroeni is a well-rounded and articulate person who likes to give his opinions on many non-soccer related issues close to his heart, and one of those is food. He is what most would call a “foodie,” growing his own vegetables at home, cooking fresh food for family and friends and encouraging his young children to eat healthy.
And that interest is one of the inspirations behind his Pepsi Refresh challenge, where he and the Rapids hope to win the $50,000 awarded to the winning charity idea. Mastroeni wants to raise awareness of how roughly 185,000 children in Colorado can go hungry every day, and has combined with the Totes of Hope program to help solve the problem.
VOTE FOR PABLO'S PEPSI REFRESH IDEA HERE.
Totes of Hope offers backpacks of food for 250 struggling children and their families in the Denver area, children who often go hungry over the weekend as they rely largely on school meals for their sustenance. The program, in conjunction with the Food Bank of the Rockies and the Boys and Girls Club of America, gives the backpacks on Friday evenings to participating kids who then have enough food to sustain them through the weekends before school on Mondays.
[inline_node:308113]“Being there are so many great causes out there and that we hear about often, I felt that Totes of Hope is very seldomly heard about and yet the issue is quite grave,” Mastroeni said.
“It happens to be in the United States, where we often don’t think about hunger in our own country. It will hopefully bring more awareness to a problem that is occurring right in our own backyard.”
The 34-year-old midfielder knows he is one of the luckier ones, in that he and his young family can enjoy the fruits of healthy living. Others are not so lucky and he wants people to be aware of that.
“My kids are growing up food- and health-conscious,” he said. “It’s vital in my life. As far as being an athlete, you want to put good fuel in your tank. There are a lot of kids aspiring to be pro soccer and football players and it’s a critical need for these kids.”
On Saturday, Mastroeni will suit up and concentrate only on the match at hand against Chivas USA. Given the increased attacking role he is enjoying, it’s not unlikely he could follow last year’s scorcher against the Goats this time around, but that won’t matter. Mastroeni is wholly about the team, and he would trade an individual spectacular goal for a Rapids’ win.
It is the same approach he brings to his latest challenge with the Pepsi Refresh competition. There is always a bigger goal than just winning a soccer game.
Nick Thomas writes about the Colorado Rapids for MLSsoccer.com. Please email him at firstname.lastname@example.org with comments and story suggestions.