CARSON, Calif. – The LA Galaxy's recent struggles have exposed a few pressing needs: more bite and better on-field communication and leadership. They believe they've found their answer in Pablo Mastroeni.
The 16-year veteran, who played in two World Cups under Galaxy coach Bruce Arena, arrived over the weekend from the Colorado Rapids in a deal that was finalized early Monday, and he figures to make his LA debut Wednesday night against the Portland Timbers at StubHub Center (10:30 pm ET, watch on MLS Live).
He's 36, but the particulars of his game – especially his competitiveness, his natural leadership ability and his versatility to fill in at several spots in midfield and along the backline – make him a valuable addition to a club that has lost six of its last eight games in all competitions.
“He's a player of quality, I believe,” Arena said following Monday's training session. “Still can play a little longer in this league. He'll be a good leader for our club, as well. He's the kind of player we've been looking for. ... He's a good ball-winner, an experienced player, a very good communicator on the field, which is something that we lack.”
Mastroeni, who spent 11-and-a-half years with the Rapids, arrived in Southern California on Saturday and trained for the first time Sunday.
He says he's “super-excited” to be with the two-time reigning MLS Cup champions, that “it's exciting to have to come in and raise your level and have to make a difference here,” and that he wants to “come in and contribute any way I can, whether it's late in games or whether it's starting the game.”
“For me, it's just coming here and being who I am, really,” he said. “Not trying to overdo it, not being someone I'm not, and doing whatever it takes to help this team.”
“Pablo is a guy who's, I would say, been misused over the past few years, or not used enough ...,” Landon Donovan said. “There's no secret that we've lacked a little bit of bite and, at times, some leadership, particularly at the defensive part of the field at the end of games, and he certainly brings that.”
Captain Robbie Keane said Mastroeni's ability to organize has been apparent in his first two training sessions.
“There's a lot of quiet lads here, you know?” Keane said. “So I think it's important to have someone who speaks a lot.”
Mastroeni said he is “naturally just a loud guy on the field,” that his “screaming, directing” isn't leadership, “just part of my game.
"And hopefully that turns into organization and gelling the team and contributing in a way that brings us together through contributing," he continued. "That's not something I have to force or I want to come in and be a leader, that's not it at all. Just be myself and continue to work hard and things will work out as they should.”