CARSON, Calif.—The LA Galaxy admit that they never would have expected former teammate Pablo Mastroeni to jump into the managerial realm so soon, but now that he’s the head coach of the Colorado Rapids, they believe that he’s a perfect fit.
Out of the gates, the Rapids have enjoyed some success with their long-term captain at the helm as the team is currently in fourth place in the Western Conference with a 3-2-2 record and 11 points after seven games. He’ll look to add to that record on Saturday when he takes on his former team at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park.
Following a 16-year MLS career, Mastroeni hung up his boots in December after spending the latter half of the 2013 season with the LA Galaxy following more than a decade with the Rapids. After retiring, Mastroeni was almost immediately in contact with Colorado and on March 8 just a day before the team’s first league match, he was officially named head coach.
But even as Mastroeni’s Rapids flourish due to the likes of Vicente Sanchez and Jose Mari, one of his former teammates for club and country disclosed that he’s somewhat surprised about his new endeavors.
“I don’t think that many of us would have expected Pablo to be coaching this soon that’s for sure, but I think that he’s done a really good job,” said Landon Donovan, who played with Mastroeni for years with the U.S. National Team, including at two World Cups. “Their record speaks for itself and they’ve looked good in most of their games. He’s going to have a big impact on this team long term and he looks like the type that can do a great job there. He’s been there a long time and he’s comfortable with the organization and the players really respect him, so he has great starting points.”
Added defender A.J. DeLaGarza, who could often be found listening to the wisdom of the veteran during his brief Galaxy stint, “When he was playing with the national team and playing in MLS, he was a smart player and a veteran. He is obviously a young coach but I think he is doing well so far.”
But even though Mastroeni has joined the coaching ranks, Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena, who coached Mastroeni at the 2002 and 2006 FIFA World Cups revealed that when he came into the national team fold, he did not resemble a future MLS coach, but throughout his storied playing career developed into a leader.
“Pablo is one of those guys who at an early age I wouldn’t have thought of as a coach, but as he grew older you could see how inquisitive he was and you saw him leaning towards that direction,” said Arena. “He is a really bright guy, he is really into the game and I’m really pleased that this has worked out for him
While Arena was quick to point out that success as a player is hardly an indicator of who will develop into a competent head coach—even going as far to mention that if that were true, Ruud Guillit would still be Galaxy boss—Donovan believes that Mastroeni’s gritty playing style will shine through in his team.
“He was very vocal on the field and he saw the game very well. There’s no way that can’t translate to his players,” he said. “As he becomes more comfortable, he’ll only get better and better. We’re all happy for him and wish him continued success.”