COMMERCE CITY, Colo. — After weeks of little news and serious concern surrounding his lingering concussion issues, Colorado Rapids midfielder Pablo Mastroeni still has no timetable for his return to the field.
Mastroeni has been officially out with what the team has described as "headaches" since the Rapids beat the Philadelphia Union 2-1 on March 18. Mastroeni played the 76 minutes that day, but has not practiced or played in a match since. The longtime former US international battled through what he termed as “mild depression” in the eight-week gap between the Union match and his return to light running at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park on May 14.
“Things are easier now, one day at a time,” Mastroeni told MLSsoccer.com last week. “I’ve overcome all that. I’ve learned a lot from this experience.”
Mastroeni suffered a concussion in a match against Real Salt Lake last October, and also a knock to the head in the Rapids’ opener March 10 against the Columbus Crew. Shortly afterwards, Mastroeni slipped into what he described as “a dark, dark place,” where the he described symptoms of waking up and not knowing where he was, frequent nausea and inconsistent sleep patterns,
After suiting up in MLS for 15 seasons and appearing in a World Cup with the US national team, Mastroeni wondered if it was time to hang up his boots.
“It definitely crossed my mind,” he said. “At one point, you ask yourself, ‘Why are you doing this? What are you doing this for? Is this right? Is this normal? I’ll do anything to make this end.' I had to think about my wife and my two kids.”
After beginning to feel better earlier this month, however, Mastroeni has his eye on a return. He is strictly following MLS’ concussion protocol, and has been lightly running and using a stationary bike in the early process of his rehabilitation. But more than anything, Mastroeni believes a shift in mentality will allow him to eventually come back after so much time off.
“I was trying to make decisions even when I didn’t feel normal,” Mastroeni said, as he described trying to force himself back onto the field. “If you’d asked me three weeks ago [about returning], I would’ve said, ‘You’re crazy. I just can’t do it.’”
That seems to have changed. As far as a timeline on his potential return is concerned, the 35-year-old isn’t thinking about anything other than improving and avoiding a relapse of his prior symptoms.
“I’m taking things one day at a time, whether I come back next month, in the next three months, I just have to be right," said Mastroeni, who said he hasn’t felt any concussion symptoms for almost two weeks. "If I’m right, everything will be all right.”
Chris Bianchi covers the Colorado Rapids for MLSsoccer.com.