Pablo Mastroeni didn’t expect to be thrust into this situation, taking over Real Salt Lake as an interim coach after it was announced Friday that Freddy Juarez and the club had parted ways.

But the former Colorado Rapids coach, who joined RSL as an assistant ahead of the 2021 season, believes the bombshell's timing – some 48 hours before a critical Western Conference showdown against Vancouver Whitecaps FC – could be a positive.

“It all came as a huge surprise, obviously not something I anticipated at all,” Mastroeni said in a media conference call Saturday ahead of Sunday’s match at BC Place (10 pm ET | MLS LIVE on ESPN+). “But it's crazy, it's almost a good thing that there's not a lot to reflect on. It’s more about the present, rallying guys and making sure that we have the right mindset to prepare and try to get a result here in Vancouver.”

Mastroeni, who found out the news a few days ago, knows there will be a different reaction to Juarez’s departure among the players. But the foundation of a culture Juarez helped establish should make the transition seamless.

“I think one of the reasons that I came to Salt Lake was Freddy wanted to create a culture, something that could stick around longer than anyone's tenure,” he said. “I think he's done a fantastic job at that. We as a staff have really worked day and night to create an environment where the players want to come in and work really hard. They want to get better.”

That, Mastroeni said, isn’t changing. Also don’t expect much deviation in the club’s tactical setup. Their foundation has led to decent results, as RSL are currently sixth in the Western Conference standings and exceeding preseason expectations – at least external ones.

“I think the most important thing for myself and the rest of the staff is to really get these guys pointing in one direction, which is continuing to improve as a group, continuing to get results that put us in a position to make the playoffs," Mastroeni said, later adding, “we don't need to look back. We need to keep keep the eye on this weekend, most importantly finding a way to get a good result here in Vancouver as a group.”

Mastroeni said his experiences as a player, most of which came with the Rapids and the US men’s national team, will help in the transition. He previously led Colorado for nearly four seasons and spent last year working under Tab Ramos in Houston.

“Falling back on my experiences allows me to understand that everyone has their own journey and to be able to relate to each individual and hopefully maximize the potential by putting an arm around them, and get just looking at their progress from a positive perspective as opposed to what they don't have, and what they can bring to the team and where they're at,” Mastroeni said.

Mastroeni said he’ll lean on the club’s veterans – Damir Kreilach, Bobby Wood, Rubio Rubin and Albert Rusnak are key – to aid in the locker room.

Rusnak has been through a lot of change in his five years at RSL and a coaching change isn’t unique to anyone in the locker room.

“These things happen in this world we live in and the world of athletes. These things are pretty normal,” said Rusnak, who sports the captain's armband. “Pablo has been here some time, we all know him very well. He knows all the players very well. It’s nothing like someone completely new just came a couple of days ago and is taking a team. We know what we can expect from Pablo and I think Pablo knows what he can get from each player as well.”

Rusnak also wanted to give Juarez credit, both for working his way up through the organization and the legacy he left.

“Freddy has been someone that has been here, probably the longest-serving maybe outside a couple of staff members that we have,” Rusnak said. “He went through the academy, all the way to Monarchs and then all the way to being assistant of the first team, and then being the main coach. He’s given this squad a lot and I think that's what people shouldn't forget and be thankful for.”