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Dear Colorado Rapids--A Letter From the Staff of Burgundy Wave

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Should Rapids legend Pablo Mastroeni be sacked? I asked the writing staff of Burgundy Wave this question and got a variety of responses but with the same basic answer.

Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

Dear Colorado Rapids,

Hello, my name is John Rosch and I am the Managing Editor of Burgundy Wave, a local soccer blog that is based here in Denver covering the Rapids.  We are a humble and small blog covering our Burgundy Boys and each of us that has had the pleasure of covering the Rapids literally bleeds burgundy.  We cheer and chant and sing for our boys and we are giddy beyond belief when they win, and sad for days when we lose.  The staff at The Wave is who you want as fans.  We all are Rapids til we die, but this is getting tough for us.  You see, we write each week about the Rapids and what they mean to us.  We try hard to give our opinion about how things are going, what we see, what we think we can improve upon.  We don't always get it right, but we sure give it our all each week for Burgundy Wave and try to provide the most comprehensive Rapids coverage we can.

We have tried to be supportive of Pablo Mastroeni as he learns the coaching ranks.  We have tried to agree with you on his selection of manager but as we look at these statistics (through Saturday night) it is tough to continue to blindly support him.  The stats:

Games Played Points Win Loss Draw Goals For Goals Against
2014 34 32 8 18 8 43 62
2015 17 15 2 6 9 12 17
Total 51 47 10 24 17 55 79

I don't need to be a soccer expert to know that those numbers, in a word are, abysmal.  Winning ten games out of 51 is nothing short of an embarrassment and something needs to be done to fix this.  This team is full of good, young talent and they are mired in another season of missing the playoffs and achieving less than one point a game.

Simply put, the staff at Burgundy Wave wants to express our displeasure with the way that this is going and I asked each one of our writers to answer this simple question:

Should Pablo Mastroeni be sacked and why do you feel this way.

Here are their answers:

From Chris White, Burgundy Wave Editor Emeritus:

It took me longer than most people, but a full year and a half of absolutely no growth and no understanding from the coach has finally put me firmly into the firing camp. All I had hoped for was a single sign I could latch onto, but it hasn't come yet and, quite frankly, even Ben Olsen (the man most often that Pablo is being compared to) still showed something of an understanding of growth in his awful first few years. I still don't think there's a chance he'll get removed before the end of this year, however, so it's kind of a useless exercise.

From Richard, Burgundy Wave Game Preview Guru:

While Pablo Mastroeni was a fantastic player and also had a distinguished career with the Colorado Rapids that included winning the 2010 MLS Cup, teams that hire former players as head coaches don't always work out too well. Take Clarence Seedorf or Inzaugi with AC Milan, or Alan Shearer of Newcastle as a few examples. Pablo Mastroeni deserved to work with the reserves or the oldest youth players in the academy before taking the reigns as head coach.

With that being said, Pablo has been given appropriate time to implement his system with the players he has - including the new players. Solignac and Doyle have arrived and while one can argue that time is needed for chemistry to develop, it is not an excuse for our goal scoring woes. Sure, Cronin and Serna have scored, but we are essentially the worst team in MLS in terms of goals scored compared to the amount of games played.

Finally, Pablo Mastroeni is tactically inept - the formations, starting lineups. substitutions, and in-game strategies have backfired. Sure, the club has 9 draws - but 2 wins...TWO WINS in the first 16 games of the season is unacceptable. Enough is enough, Pablo Mastroeni needs to be sacked. Claudio Lopez needs to take the helm as 'interim' or 'caretaker' manager, and then we can see if 'el piojo' will have what it takes to be head coach next season. If that doesn't work, we go after a coach in the offseason. Mike Petke, Tab Ramos, or even Robin Fraser are some realistic choices at the moment. #PabloOut

From Ben, Burgundy Wave Contributor and Thug Cast Producer:

Pablo Ought to Be Fired

I remember having a lot of hope that when Pablo was hired, it was because he had demonstrated during his short time as interim coach that he had the requisite ability to teach and to get his players to display the kind of soccer the club (from the CEO to the TD) said they wanted to be about: attractive, attacking, possession based soccer. Intelligent soccer.

After a year and a half of Pablo's tenure, I can see that it's not working out that way, and I have seen no reason to believe that is going to happen without a managerial change.

Not only has Mastroeni's time at the helm been marked by a transition from the all-out run-and-gun attack of Oscar Pareja (which, admittedly, needed maturation and more commitment to defending the ball) to what can only be described as "bunker and pray," but also a transition from a Front Office and club that was becoming more open and accessible and fun to interact with to a club that has shuttered itself from the wave of criticism from its fans regarding the performances of the first team.

A second and equally disturbing change has been the shift from regarding Colorado's youth (formerly affectionately known as the RapKids) as a valuable asset and essential part of the performance of the club and demonstration of a club philosophy of commitment to developing young talent, to regarding youth as a liability. Something that needs to be tempered with older, veteran talent.

Not only has this club not achieved results, but due to their absolute support of Mastroeni, they have chosen to put a personality ahead of their club philosophy. That is the most glaring and most important reason why Mastroeni should be fired.

A club should never abandon its commitment to its core principles. If they do, then it's a sign the club stands for nothing. The brand is no reasonable expectation of a certain style or standard of play.

This isn't just about tactical ineptitude (which also is a problem) nor is it just about results (which is a huge problem). It's about a fundamental challenge to the club's ethos.

While it absolutely hurts to have to let Pablo go, and I hate that the FO has put us in the position by putting a man in charge who was in no way prepared or able to coach the kind of style that embodied the deepest aspirations of the Colorado Rapids Soccer Club and of the fans who tirelessly support it, it is clear that Pablo must go. For the good of the club, a change must be made.

And hopefully next time they can find a coach who has proven he (or she) will fit the philosophy and inspire Colorado and her soccer fans with results, rather than twisting themselves into knots trying to follow the will of one man trying to coach as best he knows how.

From Mark, The Rapids Rabbi and Backpass Tactical Contributor

Against Seattle, I turned to my wife at the close of the half, down 1-0, and said 'If we go into halftime losing, there's no hope for coming back. Sigi Schmidt will adjust, and Pablo won't.' And thats what happened.

Pablo Mastroeni hasn't given any proof that he's capable of leading the Rapids to a successful season. His win-loss record since taking over is terrible: 10 wins, 27 losses, 14 draws. He's been wedded to one formation all year, despite struggling to scrape together goals. He shifts the lineup constantly, putting players out of position, giving no ability for the team to gel or play to their strengths. When behind in the score he frequently subs on defensive midfielders. The attack is constantly disjointed and sputtering. New players haven't found success. Young players haven't continued to develop and improve. Post-game Pablo interviews are an experience in cognitive dissonance: there's never a glimmer of recognition that the team looks like crap. It's like he's watching a different game than we are.

I'd really like to be the one guy to continue making the 'give it time, guys! It'll come together!' argument. But I don't see any evidence that Pablo Mastroeni knows what he's doing.

From Erik, Burgundy Wave Special Features Contributor

They say that the height of Madness is the continual practice of same actions while expecting different results. I believe it's safe to say that Pablo is about as mad as a hatter right now. (Apologies to The Mad Hatter and Lewis Carol). I don't often criticise tactics, because they frequently go to Hell when encountering the enemy. I prefer to focus on an overall strategy, but I'm seeing a distinct lack of it, particularly when it comes to adaptation during the match. I don't see that Pablo is willing to try anything but the same things with a dogged determination to force it to work. It harkens back to the time when in pre-school I would hammer the square into the circle on the activity board; Although eventually *I* made it work if I hit the block hard enough. Hey Rapids, I'm ready for hire next season!

In a game such as football, you must be adaptable. The game is fluid, and you have to be able to realise that driving the bloody ball down the sideline and crossing it every damnable time doesn't work and adapt; I'm always leery when a player becomes a coach, since their particular playing style may not translate to overall team strategy, and in this case it is blindingly so. At least he shaved that damnable mustache and the Rapids can shut up about it now. Sadly, I will have to change my hashtags away from #ShaveTheStache now.

From Zac, Burgundy Wave Tactics Tuesday Contributor

I'll preface this by saying I don't believe that Pablo Mastroeni is the Colorado Rapids manager when the 2016 season kicks off in March.

But that said, I don't see the benefit of sacking him before the end of the season. How many times have we seen interim managers named to a sinking ship and the change in attitude sparks an immediate turnaround only to see that manager fail to deliver consistently moving forward. In the most important sense, this season is already over, as the Rapids won't be making the playoffs. But doesn't that give Mastroeni the perfect chance to a) start playing youth and b) continue (more recklessly) to try and add offensive output to his (up to quite recently) defensive solidity? I don't want to come across as the Mastroeni apologist because he's mostly a frustrating manager, but he's also a manager who can clearly organize a defense and convince his players to play within his tactical setup -- and that's more difficult than people might expect. If everyone could win 1-0 why wouldn't everyone do it? The problem with Mastroeni, of course, is that he's not winning through defense, he's drawing at a seriously insane rate while losing thrice as often as winning. The 2015 Colorado Rapids have been a certifiable disaster in the final third this season and that is absolutely the fault of the manager. But again, this manager has chosen to build from defense and that necessarily means patience while waiting for the offensive (and maybe even more problematic, the transitional phase) to come together. Mastroeni must surely know his days are numbered, but if management is committed to giving him two full seasons (and I believe they are) to implement his tactical systems and find results, he deserves to be allowed to see them out -- and in seeing them out (having already destroyed the season), he has three innocuous months to find the offensive output that has hereto escaped him.

From Matt, Burgundy Wave Assistant Editor

I do not have the perspective of watching Pablo Mastroeni as a player. My first year watching MLS in earnest was when Mastroeni was in LA. But it didn't take long to realize that (1) he was an outright legend, and (2) he was put in an impossible position as a newly-minted head coach of a top-flight team with the abrupt and, yes, classless departure of Oscar Pareja with a scrambling Plan B (again, that's the perception). So when I speak, I speak from the vantage point of having no memories of his playing career. Maybe that's a good thing.

John Maxwell said once, "Everything rises and falls on leadership." But he also said, "If you're a leader, and no one is following you, you're just taking a walk." As a fan, but also as a leader of a non-profit organization (a.k.a., a church), I look at the situation now and it seems as if Mastroeni is taking a walk. The fundamentals and the fire seem markedly absent. Is it his coaching ability (or lack thereof?) or have the players tuned him out?

The play in the outer thirds of the Rapids are what frustrate me the most. The lanes aren't filled and the aggression is not there when a ball is crossed in, or when a rebound occurs. When times are bad, folks react in one of two ways: they grow desperate to turn things around, or they resign themselves to the notion that the situation will not turn. What you want is a leader who will help them see the urgency (which Pablo may be doing), not tuning out.

We have players that have succeeded in other venues, at home and abroad. Something's amiss in Rapid Land. The weight of the lack of results is starting to pile on. You can see that invisible weight on the shoulders of our players. I'm all for having a plan and sticking with it. But if the NBA Finals showed us anything at all, it's that a coach and his staff must have the ability to adapt.

I'm not sure if Mastroeni was given an opportunity to succeed. I don't doubt he will make an excellent coach someday, but he did not have the opportunity to sharpen his trade as an assistant or as a coach in the USL or NASL.

I'll close with this. We need to create a culture of winning. It feels like we have a culture of just getting by--and I know that's not the intention. But we need to communicate to the fans, the players, and everyone watching that the Rapids want to develop a culture of winning. With DSGP as a fortress. With no holds barred. Pull out all the stops.

John Kotter in his book "Leading Change" makes it clear that a leader must create a sense of urgency. Does that exist?

From Peter, Player Ratings Expert of Burgundy Wave:

Pablo has had a season and a half to put this team on the right track and 1/2 of a season with new players. Unfortunately they seem to be regressing rather than improving. They have particularly struggled at scoring goals this year and that is not good. The players on this team are better than the record indicates.

Pablo had the perfect time in mid-June to switch formation and/or change tactics, test it out in the U.S. Open Cup match against Colorado Springs and then carry on the rest of the season. But that didn't happen.

The club always comes first and Pablo being a club legend should realize that things aren't going to go well and step-down. This will allow the club to bring in the coach they identified (I hope they have done this) to be the next coach or allow Claudio to be the interim for the rest of the year until they person they want is available.

If the club hasn't identified a new coach, shame on them. They seemed unaware that Oscar would leave despite all of the signs that he would leave. That is how we ended up in this mess. Pablo was thrown into a no-win situation. No experience as a coach he shouldn't have been put into this position. But I don't think the Rapids felt they had a choice.

The All Star game is a conundrum for the club. But I don't think they club can wait that long. Just think of the jokes and rhetoric when everyone in the soccer world is hear. Pablo as the coach would open things up to so many embarrassing questions for him and the club. If the Rapids thought things were bad now, wait until it moves from Twitter to many other media forms.

Overall, it is time to move on from Pablo. This team needs a fresh start and the time is now.

Colorado Rapids, please know this--the staff here does not take this stand lightly.  Asking for someone to lose their job is a horrible thing to ask for, but this club seems to be floundering in such a way that there appears to be no hope for a reversal--certainly not this year--and doubtful in the future.

Letting a club legend go is even harder.  If the Rapids had been showing progress--even if they were losing--it would be one thing.  But right now there is zero progress that is evident.  The team seems to be worse than they were last year, and last year was a complete train wreck.

I get that everyone loves Pablo and he is in the gallery of honor, but for the sake of the future of this club, and the future of professional soccer in Colorado, the staff at Burgundy Wave hopes everyone at the Rapids that is involved in these decisions carefully weighs the trajectory of the club currently and where it should be in the next several years.  Is Mastroeni the person to lead that charge?  I think the statistics and the staff of Burgundy Wave agree that the only option is a change in the coaching staff in Commerce City.

Sincerely,

John P Rosch

Managing Editor, Burgundy Wave