DENVER – On the day Major League Soccer kicked off its regular season, the Colorado Rapids finally got around to the business of naming Pablo Mastroeni their permanent head coach.
Former coach Oscar Pareja left the team for FC Dallas on January 10, and Mastroeni was named the interim head coach shortly thereafter. After Pareja’s departure, the Rapids made it clear they were going to take their time in naming their head coach, but few anticipated that almost two months would pass before a permanent skipper was appointed.
So why exactly did Colorado take so long, diving into uncharted waters by not officially naming a new coach until MLS’ regular season had started (the Rapids don’t open until next Saturday)? Club president Tim Hinchey said the lengthy wait came as a result of the club’s desire to make absolutely sure they had the right man.
“I can appreciate everyone’s concern [over the timing]. But we weren’t concerned. We were never nervous,” Hinchey said on Saturday, shortly after the official announcement appointing Mastroeni as coach. “We wanted to make a decision for the next 10 years, not for just the season. I think we showed when we gave Oscar the support in his first year, we’re willing to wait.
“We have a great ownership group that allows us to be patient and that funds us. At the same time, Paul [Bravo, technical director] has incredible relationships, not just in MLS but all over the world, as do I, and we owed it to some people to have a conversation.”
Hinchey and the Rapids made it clear, in no uncertain terms, that Pareja’s sudden departure created a scar that the club wanted to heal. That stunned Hinchey in particular, and the club wanted, as a result, a coach it felt would be around for a long time rather than using Colorado as a stopgap.
“It was very difficult for me,” Hinchey said of Pareja’s decision to leave. “For my sins, I’m very honest. I’m very transparent. When someone sits in my office and says that they want to be the head coach of our club, I take that word. That said, everyone can change their mind. Things happen for a reason, and I think this is the right time.”
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Hinchey said the team interviewed between six and 10 candidates for the head coaching position, and they wanted to explore all avenues before handing over the reigns to Mastroeni on a permanent basis.
“We wanted to do a deliberate search. We talked to people in several continents, we talked to assistant MLS coaches, we talked to college coaches,” Hinchey said. “We did our research. We wanted to go through that process. Every day that went by, [Pablo] got stronger and better at the job, and as I said before, as a fan I wanted Pablo to be the guy. And now that it’s come true, it’s even better.”
Chris Bianchi covers the Colorado Rapids for MLSsoccer.com.