With the arrival of a new coach comes the arrival of new philosophies, new tactics, and, of course, new lineups.
And sure enough, in the Colorado Rapids’ season-opening 1-1 draw at Red Bull Arena on Saturday afternoon, new head coach Pablo Mastroeni sprinkled in more than a little of his own flavoring into his first lineup as coach, and it paid off in a big way.
The 37-year-old also played musical chairs with his defense and the attack, leaning towards more of a youthful 11, and the early reviews were positive, as displayed in Colorado’s auspicious result.
Perhaps most surprisingly, Mastroeni handed 19-year-old Dillon Serna his first MLS start, and the teenager ripped off several quality opportunities out of his right midfield spot -- likely at the expense of crafty veteran Vicente Sánchez, who played the final half-hour for central midfielder Dillon Powers.
“Like I’ve said from the beginning, it’s going to take every player in that locker room to have a successful campaign,” Mastroeni said postgame on Saturday. “I think any chance you get to come in and make a difference, these guys did so today.”
Mastroeni also flip-flopped Shane O’Neill, who starred at center back last year, and Marvell Wynne, who struggled at times at right back in 2013, with mostly positive results, although the duo let Thierry Henry slip behind them on New York’s lone goal of the afternoon.
But that was far from Mastroeni’s lone change from the lineup he mostly inherited from predecessor Oscar Pareja. Nathan Sturgis, a 23-game starter in 2013, was an unused substitute in favor of Nick LaBrocca, who was one of the Rapids’ better players on Saturday. Striker Gabriel Torres looked uncomfortable at times dropping back into a left midfield role and was subbed off shortly after the 60-minute mark.
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So while his lineups will inevitably change as he and the team evolve this season, one thing was learned on Saturday: Mastroeni isn’t afraid to make a bold move or three on Saturdays.
“From an energy standpoint, young guys for the good part of three-quarters of the game, they brought a lot of good energy,” Mastroeni said. “I thought [second-half substitutes] Marvin [Chávez], [Marc] Burch and Vicente did a great job, coming in and changing the game in their own unique ways.”
Chris Bianchi covers the Colorado Rapids for MLSsoccer.com.