CARSON, Calif. – The LA Galaxy have been lacking a little experience and bite as of late and may have filled that need on Monday with the acquisition of longtime MLS veteran midfielder Pablo Mastroeni from the Colorado Rapids.
LA acquired the 36-year-old midfielder as well as the MLS rights to current Hammarby IF midfielder Baggio Hušidić in exchange for the club’s natural second round selection in the 2014 MLS SuperDraft and an international spot that runs through the 2014 MLS Regular Season.
Mastroeni arrives in Southern California with a resume that includes 325 MLS regular season appearances, two World Cup appearances for the U.S. National Team, nine MLS All-Star nods, and an MLS Cup, having captained the Rapids to their only championship in 2010. The change of scenery is jarring for Mastroeni, who was the longtime captain of the Rapids as well as the club’s all-time appearance leader, but the veteran is excited for a new opportunity.
“I’m just super excited to be here in a place where I know a lot of the players and the coaching staff as well,” said Mastroeni on Monday after his first full training session with the team. “I’ve been in a lot of locker rooms, mostly in Colorado, but I’ve seen a lot of players and [I can] bring a little bit of experience to the game off the field, but more importantly, on the field to come in and contribute any way that I can.
“For me, it’s just coming in here and being who I am. Not trying to overdo it and be someone that I’m not and do whatever it takes to contribute to this team.”
How Mastroeni can contribute remains to be seen as LA has leaned heavily on the Brazilian duo of Juninho and Marcelo Sarvas during the season. With Sarvas suspended, he may be thrown into circulation in Wednesday’s match against the Portland Timbers, but the veteran revealed on Monday that he has had conversations with Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena about playing other positions like right back or central defense.
No matter where he suits up, Arena believes that there is much that the team can gain from having Mastroeni around.
“He’s a player of quality and I believe that he can still play a little longer in this league. He’s got great experience and he’ll be a good leader for our club as well,” Arena, who coached Mastroeni at the 2002 and 2006 World Cups, said. “He’s the kind of player that we’ve been looking for, so I think that he’s going to help us as we get into the second half of the season.”
On the field, LA hope that Mastroeni will be able to contribute immediately to a team that has struggled in recent weeks, but where he may have the most influence is in the Galaxy locker room. With extensive experience obtained through his 16-year professional career, he’ll immediately join the likes of captain Robbie Keane, Landon Donovan, Carlo Cudicini, and Omar Gonzalez as Galaxy leaders.
“I think it’s good for this team because there a lot of quiet lads here, so it’s good to have someone that speaks a lot,” said Galaxy captain Robbie Keane. “Already in the couple of days since he’s been here, the communication of him telling people to go left or right…certainly does help.”
“It’s good for the rest of us to have another voice and another leader on the field. Sometimes it’s difficult in a forward position, which both Robbie and myself are, to have an impact in that way. You can’t yell 70 yards to the right back or the center back and talk to them easily,” said Donovan. “Carlo has been good in that way behind those guys and having a little more vocal leadership through the middle of the park could help a lot.”
And as he looks to impart wisdom LA’s young midfielders, there is no doubt that he’ll have plenty of respect.
“I think that it’s good for the young guys like myself and we can learn from him a great amount. It’ll be good for me and my development to get some points for him,” said second-year midfielder Rafael Garcia. “I grew up watching him, I remember watching him in the 2002 World Cup and he always stood out for me. We’re happy to have him and we’re excited and hopefully it’ll make us a better team.”
At 36, Mastroeni surmises that he still has several years left in his playing career, especially after missing much of the 2011 season due to concussion symptoms. In fact, the veteran midfielder claims that he’s actually 35 in playing years after embarking upon an extensive fitness regimen that includes a new diet, yoga, and meditation.
“I’ve been trying to cheat time since I turned 30 and I’ve done a lot of things off the field to really help me in that regard,” Mastroeni told reporters. “I have a few years, but I just take it one day a time really and that’s been my focus. I feel like I can control my situation if I take in little increments rather than big picture.”
The wily veteran has no doubt that there will be some adjustment period as he looks to acclimate to life in California and a new locker room, but he’s optimistic that he’ll have plenty of success with LA.
“[The Galaxy] always have a high standard and it’s exciting to have to come in and raise your level and have to make a difference here,” said Mastroeni. “That’s something that I used to experience with the national team quite a bit and I’m excited to do that here.”
Adam Serrano is the LA Galaxy Insider. Read his blog at LAGalaxy.com/Insider and contact him at LAGalaxyInsider@Gmail.com.