This offseason, UZ and Ben will give short reviews on the play of all Colorado Rapids players who received a decentamount of time on the pitch during the season along with a season grade. Starting with Goalkeepers and thenmoving up the field as necessary from defenders to forwards, today Bulldog Ben is going to write about Captain Pablo Mastroeini
Name: Pablo "Pabs" Mastroeni
Minutes Played: 2493
Stats: 2 Goals, Assists 3
Oh Pablooo... Mastroeni... They say he's just defense. Oh, they say he's just defense...
El Captain, Pablo Mastroeni: the man who, as of the 2010 season, has racked up more career minutes for the Rapids than any other player in the club's history, the talisman, the one who has been there through the good times and the bad times... You're likely to get a mixed reaction about Pablo depending on who you speak to in the Rapids community. Some people think of him as a no-nonsense midfield hardman, the Rino Gatusso of the Rockies. Some refer to him amiably as "Papa Pablo", a father figure always ready with a joke or a story. In truth: both of these assessments are true, and yet they don't fully capture the essence of Pablo Mastroeini and his complex role on the Rapids.
To be sure, Pablo is the leader of the dressing room. Rookies and newcomers to the team are most often welcomed in by Pablo himself. If you're in midfield, regardless of your ultimate role, Pablo is the one to watch. The reason for this, as was highlighted in the 2010 season, is Pablo's ability to play every role from the front to the back of the pitch. A roaming, box-to-box role, that it seemed he was born to play.
While it was the solid play of Jeff Larentowicz that freed Pablo to put himself in more forward positions, Pablo himself seemed to have found the fabled fountain of youth in the 2010 season. In the final days leading up to the Rapids' stunning rise to the Cup, Pablo was an absolute joy to watch. One would be hard pressed to guess that Mastroeni at 34 would have been considering retirement. Mastroeni clogged passing lanes, pressured the ball, and put himself, the ball, and his team mates into good space to get the Rapids attack moving. He also assisted, and netted 3 goals himself. And they say he just defends...
But no one is perfect. Mastroeni in the summer slump was just as guilty as anyone else (save perhaps Omar Cummings) of sub-par play. Pablo also lost his cool on one occasion against the Crew at Dick's Sporting Goods Park when Steven Lehnart toe-poked a ball at him while he was on the ground. Pablo lashed out at Lehnart, and got himself a red card for his troubles. The Rapids were forced to play a man down, and a Captain down, no less.
Nevertheless, you can't Captain a team to the MLS Cup in the way that Pablo did and not get at least an 8. Giving him the 9 is both acknowledging that Pablo still has a bit yet to improve, but that I think he's finally found himself in the place where he was always meant to be.
PLAYER RATING: 9