COMMERCE CITY, Colo. – With the Colorado Rapids giving up goals at an alarming rate over an eight-game winless streak, head coach Pablo Mastroeni is looking to shake things up.
In that vein, Mastroeni will turn to a veteran goalkeeper in the hopes of reversing course with six games left in the 2014 regular season. Thirty-year-old Joe Nasco will start for Colorado on Friday night at Real Salt Lake (10 pm ET; NBCSN in the US, TSN2 in Canada), Mastroeni told MLSsoccer.com this week, leaving regular starter Clint Irwin on the bench for the fourth straight match.
“[We want to] give him another opportunity to go into a difficult place and be a voice back there,” Mastroeni said of Nasco, who missed the Rapids’ 2-2 draw against the Portland Timbers last weekend due to a red-card suspension. “[We want him to] exude his experience as a guy who’s been around for a while, and do whatever he can to help us keep the ball out of the back of the net.”
The first-year head coach cited Nasco’s increased vocal presence along the backline as a key reason for the switch. With regular captain Drew Moor (ACL tear) sidelined for the rest of the season and the Rapids allowing 20 goals in the last six games (3.33 goals per game), Mastroeni wants a stronger voice between the posts, something Mastroeni believes Nasco will provide at the Rio Tinto Stadium.
“When you lose a guy like Drew, who’s a vocal leader as well as a leader by actions, you lose a lot,” Mastroeni said. “You don’t realize that until he’s gone. It’s one thing to convert players into certain positions, but there has to be some level of experience or voice behind or around, and if there’s not then everyone is kind of looking around.”
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Mastroeni also believes the weight of allowing as many goals as Irwin has this season (41 in 22 games, as opposed to 35 in 32 games in 2013) is weighing mentally on the 25-year-old Irwin, who stormed onto the scene after taking over for veteran Matt Pickens for injury reasons in March 2013.
“I think what Joe [Nasco] brings to that backline is just that bit of voice and that growl,” Mastroeni said. “I think it’s what this group needs.”
Chris Bianchi covers the Colorado Rapids for MLSsoccer.com.