Pablo Mastroeni tried to convince himself that the LA Galaxy's game Saturday night at Colorado was just another match, a chance to nab three points and — with Real Salt Lake's dramatic defeat at New York — move within a point of the Western Conference lead.
But of course, it was more than that for the 36-year-old midfielder, who had spent nearly 12 years with the Rapids before the Galaxy acquired him last month to bolster their depth and provide needed leadership. Lucikly, he had to come to terms with all that the night before.
Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena allowed Mastroeni to stay at his home, rather than the team hotel, affording him a reunion with his wife, Kelly, and two children, who plan to remain in Denver until their house is sold.
“After 12 years at this club, it's kind of surreal,” Mastroeni said following Colorado's 2-0 victory. “I had a hard time sleeping thinking about it. I actually woke up in the middle of the night thinking that I had a game with the Rapids. It was the most bizarre, surreal kind of experience, but I think when the whistle blows, everything kind of goes out the window. It's all that anticipation stuff that's emotional and unsettling.”
He said he “just wanted to block it out of my mind,” but that was impossible until kickoff, and then things didn't go as planned. He and the Galaxy were outmuscled and outclassed by his old buddies nearly the full 90 minutes as his family, friends and fans who had cheered him on for a dozen years looked on.
It wasn't a good night.
“I think it's a bit disheartening ...,” he told MLSsoccer.com after the game. “We just didn't get into a good flow. We didn't impose ourselves too much, weren't really able to penetrate the flanks and get crosses across the face of goal. And we didn't really have a good flow through midfield either. From that perspective, it's a bit disheartening.”
Mastroeni had an impressive first start for the Galaxy the week before, in a 2-1 victory over Vancouver. With winger Robbie Rogers dealing with an ailing hamstring, he stepped into the holding role in central midfield, providing a foundation for Juninho and Marcelo Sarvas, who moved to the flank, to surge forward as the Galaxy pummeled the Whitecaps far worse than the score suggested.
But they were outgunned in Colorado, with rookie Dillon Powers, especially, doing as he pleased to ignite a potent Rapids attack.
“There's no excuse, from our perspective,” Mastroeni said. “Whoever's on the field is expected to go out there and do a job, whether you're home or you're away. There's something to be said about having those difference-makers not available today, and these are opportunities for some of us guys who aren't playing regular minutes to step up, but tonight we fell short.”
He was pleased with the reception from the Colorado fans and his former teammates but said he was happy that first trip home was over.
“There's so many memories that you make, and you kind of relive those,” he said. “It's good this chapter is closed for me, and now I can just move forward and be done with that and not have to look forward to the next time I come to Colorado. It's good to get that over and done with and focus on what lies ahead.”