CARSON, Calif. – Just more than a month after being traded to the Galaxy, Pablo Mastroeni will return to Colorado, a place where he spent 12 years as a star with the Colorado Rapids. Originally acquired to add depth to the Galaxy midfield, the 36-year-old may arrive at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park as a starter given the club’s recent rash of injuries.
Mastroeni made his first start—and fifth appearance— for the Galaxy on Saturday in their 2-1 victory over Vancouver Whitecaps FC as LA were forced to shuffle players in midfield due to Robbie Rogers’ right hamstring injury. Paired in central midfield with Juninho against the Whitecaps, the veteran was efficient in a holding role as he completed 38 of his 45 passes, two of which led directly to scoring opportunities while repeatedly breaking up Vancouver’s forays up field. He also went close to opening his Galaxy goal account in the 56th minute, blazing a shot over the bar from just inside the area.
“I think that from organizational standpoint, we balanced each other out. Me holding more allowed Juninho to get forward and Marcelo [Sarvas] to do his thing as well,” said Mastroeni of his performance before admitting that he’s steadily become more match fit in his time with LA. “We really made it hard for their midfielders to get a good flow in the game. We did a good job in keeping the pressure on their backline and I think that was allowed us to get numbers forward.”
LA head coach Bruce Arena was among those who were impressed with his showing against Vancouver.
“It’s taken him a little time to get in form and he still needs a little time, but he’s an experienced player. He’s worked well in the center of midfield with our team,” said Arena. “Hopefully, we can keep moving him forward. [Against Vancouver] he kept things simple, organized, and communicated well [in the midfield].”
With Rogers still a question mark for Saturday’s match, Mastroeni is ready to reprise his role, if need be.
“I feel good. I’m ready to go if called upon,” Mastroeni added. “This is one of the reasons that I’m sure Bruce brought me in is to fill in when players are injured and a gap needs to be filled. I look forward to the opportunity to play.”
No matter where he’s stationed on the field, returning to Dick’s Sporting Goods Park will be emotional for Mastroeni, who spent 12 years with the Rapids. One of the club’s great talismans, Mastroeni captained Colorado to their lone MLS Cup title in 2010 while accruing franchise records in both games (225) and minutes played (18,669).
When his name is announced on Saturday over the loudspeakers in Commerce City, he doesn’t know what the reaction from the Rapids faithful will be, but he does hold his memories in Colorado in high esteem—even if the Galaxy “feels like home” to him now.
“My favorite part of Colorado besides the players that I was in the trenches with all those years and the organization were the fans that came out in crazy weather to support the team,’ he said. “Who knows how I’ll be received, but there were a lot of fun memories in Dick’s Sporting Goods Park. [However,] I’m not really focused on any of that. I’m just taking it day to day and seeing what comes.”
While Mastroeni has been living in “duffle bags” since coming to Los Angeles, his family remains in Colorado as they look to sell their home and permanently make the move to Southern California.
Although the distance is trying on the 36-year-old, he remains in touch with his wife Kelly and their two children, eight-year-old son Luca and six-year-old daughter Giuliana, through FaceTime video-messaging.
“We do it in the mornings and we do it at night, it doesn’t fill the void, but it’s as close as you can get while you’re going through this transition period,” said Mastroeni. “You can perceive it to be a negative in life or you can learn and be grateful. Obviously, when they get here, I’ll definitely be more plugged in than in the past, realizing how important they are to me.”
With plenty of family and friends in the stands on Saturday, there will be no escaping the excitement surrounding Mastroeni at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park, but he admits that “once the whistle blows, all that stuff flies out the window.”
“I just think that it is great to go back to a place that I’ve been for 12 years and get a result at a crucial point in the season,” said Mastroeni. “I’ll be playing in front of a lot of people that are close to me. It’s a special game, but looking at it from my perspective, it’s a big game because what it means to this club.”
Adam Serrano is the LA Galaxy Insider. Read his blog at LAGalaxy.com/insider and contact him at LAGalaxyInsider@Gmail.com