"Colorado For Life"
If you've spent any time following the Rapids recently, you have probably seen, heard, or hashtagged the motto above. You could look at it as just another slogan like the sea of others in Major League Soccer, such as, "Our All. Our Honor" for Vancouver Whitecaps, or "All For One" with Toronto FC. But, as was demonstrated with Pablo Mastroeni's personnel decisions on Saturday, it's less a slogan and more of a culture change within the organization.
Against the defending MLS Cup champions, Sporting KC, last Saturday, the Colorado Rapids had all four of their 2014 SuperDraft selections in the 18-man gameday roster. Of those draftees, two started and all but one saw playing time. Perhaps even more telling is that out of the 18, ten have played for only one club in MLS. And I'll bet you can figure out which club.
Six of 11 #Rapids96 starters today tonight were either drafted by the club or Homegrown. That’s what they want.— Chris Bianchi (@Rapids_News) March 29, 2014
Mastroeni made a huge statement on Saturday, not just that this is his team, but also that he and the Front Office are changing the direction of the entire Rapids organization. In a game where Clint Irwin was probably healthy enough to step back in between the posts, and Nathan Sturgis was a sure-fire bet to fill in for the suspended Jose Mari, the Rapids instead chose to stick with John Berner in the back and gave rookie Jared Watts his very first start (and minutes) as a professional soccer player. When the Front Office hired Mastroeni, they did so to have a manager who had "Colorado Pride." It's clear to see that Pablo & Co. are now transferring that philosophy to the field. It even showed in week 1 when homegrown player Dillon Serna got the nod over wily veteran, Vicente Sanchez.
It's not just the personnel decisions that demonstrate the new state pride theme. Other than the "Colorado For Life" motto, have you seen the Rapids' jerseys? After debuting a home jersey highlighting season ticket holders and an away jersey completely modeled after the Colorado state flag in 2013, the Rapids kept the embossed Colorado "C" on the home jerseys this season. It shows a dedication to something that resonates deep not only with Rapids fans, but with every Colorado resident across the state.
It's too early to tell if this new culture will translate to progress on the field, however. Mastroeni said earlier last week that nine times out of ten he's making an offensive substitution, and in the 88th minute he made good on that statement. After going a man down, and 2+ minutes away from a valuable point against the defending champs, Mastroeni subbed in attack-minded Marlon Hairston (another rookie with zero professional minutes prior to that moment) rather than putting on another defender.
The one thing we do know is that there are even more questions to answer next week. Will Watts start again? If so, will it be in midfield or at right back? Who will fill in for the suspended Marvell Wynne? Will it be another rookie debut in Grant Van de Casteele? Or will homegrown Shane O'Neill reprise his role at center back? Regardless of what happens, you can bet Pablo & Co. will keep the new-found/age-old philosophy in mind.