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The Daily Wave: And The Ultimate Rapids Icon Is...

Balboa or Pablo? Who is the ultimate iconic Rapids player, the all-time face of the club?

Harry How

When you look at the Colorado Rapids all-time great iconic players, two stand out: Marcelo Balboa and Pablo Mastroeni. They may not be the two best players to suit up for the club, but they're certainly in that conversation. And what sets them apart from the Chris Hendersons, John Spencers, and Conor Caseys is their long-term status as the face of the franchise. They were the guys who represented the Rapids at all-star games, in MLS marketing materials, on the US National Team, and as club captains. They are the two guys most soccer fans would associate with Colorado, making them our club's icons. But who is the bigger icon, the ultimate Rapid? I picked some key categories to compare (Note: all stats include playoffs):

Longevity:


Games Played

Games Started

Minutes

Mastroeni

244

236

20,489

Balboa

163

157

14,392

Balboa played 6 years with the Rapids, 3 as team captain. Mastroeni played 11 ½ years, including parts of 10 years (8 full years) as team captain. He holds the team records for games played and minutes played.

Edge: Mastroeni

-

Production:


Goals

Assists

Shots

Shots on Goal

Mastroeni

6

16

90

21

Balboa

24

25

289

107

It's worth noting that Balboa's goals include the first ever goal, first home goal, and best goal in club history. And just for fun:


Fouls

Yellow Cards

Red Cards

Mastroeni

384

63

6

Balboa

132

13

1

Edge: Balboa

-

Titles:

The closest Balboa got to raising silverware was being runner-up in the 1997 MLS Cup and the 1999 US Open Cup. Mastroeni won the 2010 MLS Cup, and the 2005 & 2006 Rocky Mountain Cups. Balboa of course never got to play for this trophy, so he's still undefeated.

Edge: Mastroeni

-

Overall Honors:

Balboa: Member of 1990, 1994, and 1998 World Cup Teams, National Soccer Hall of Fame, and Colorado Sports Hall of Fame; US National Team captain; 1992 and 1994 US Soccer Male Athlete of the Year; Named to MLS All-Time Best XI (selected in 2005); Six-time MLS All-Star; 2000 MLS Goal of the Year; Inaugural member of the Rapids' Gallery of Honor.

Mastroeni: Member of 2002 and 2006 World Cup Teams; Future member of the National Soccer and Colorado Sports Halls of Fame; Future member of the Rapids Gallery of Honor; Seven-time MLS All-Star.

Edge: Balboa

-

Best Rapids Moment:

Old-School MLS: Marcelo Balboa Scores Goal of the Year - 2000 (via Hoppercool)


For Balboa, this is a tie between his bicycle wondergoal against Columbus (certainly the best ever by a Rapids player, and I would argue by far the best ever goal in MLS) and his dramatic overtime game-winner on July 4th, 2000. For Mastroeni, it's lifting the 2010 MLS Cup.

Edge: Mastroeni

-

Impact on Colorado Soccer:

When you're talking legacy, it goes beyond the field. Balboa had a local soccer history before the Rapids existed as he was a member of Colorado Foxes in 1992. After his career, he became the Rapids' television announcer, joined the front office in a community outreach role, and he has coached youth soccer in Colorado for years. We all hope Mastroeni will come back and join the Rapids front office when he retires, but in his letter to the fans when he left last month, he talked about looking forward to being "closer to family in Arizona," suggesting Colorado may not be his permanent home.

Edge (for now): Balboa

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Overall:

This is not an easy call. When I started this I thought it would be Mastroeni, but I find I'm leaning toward Balboa. A big reason is that he was the first face of the franchise. His history with the national team, as well as his distinct appearance, made him instantly recognizable to even casual fans before the Rapids had played a game. He got the first goal, and was the first star. Mastroeni grew into his role as the Rapids icon, a crown he wore with less comfort that Balboa seemed to. His longevity (will we ever see another 10-year captain?) and winning the MLS Cup make Mastroeni tough to beat, but for his overall presence, I'm giving the nod to Marcelo Balboa.

Edge: Balboa

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Place your vote and give your thoughts below.