"This is the most important season in Colorado Rapids history."
Pablo Mastroeni, at Rapids Media Day on March 1, 2016
It is no secret that the Colorado Rapids have had a rough couple of years. No secret at all. But this off-season they have undergone a significant overhaul in terms of players and a new assistant coach (John Spencer).
OUT: Clint Irwin, James Riley, Drew Moor, Michael Harrington, Maynor Figueroa, Nick LaBrocca, Vicente Sanchez, Carlos Alvarez, Juan Ramirez, Marcelo Sarvas, Charles Eloundou, Gabriel Torres.
IN: Mekeil Williams, Eric Miller, Micheal Azira, Marco Pappa, Zach Pfeffer, Shkelzen Gashi, Conor Doyle
So what does it all mean? Well, until the players take the field on Sunday against San Jose Earthquakes, no one really knows. But I do believe this team will be better than it was in 2015.
But why tell you this? Well, yesterday (March 1) was the second Rapids Media Day. A few of the media types from Denver had a chance to meet with Miller, Gashi, Conor Doyle and most importantly, Rapids Gaffer Pablo Mastroeni. Now I have about 2 hours of interviews to transcribe, but I wanted to share one question now. The one question that I have wanted to ask and that I get asked the most from fans as Managing Editor of Burgundy Wave.
"Pablo, what do you say to fans who are frustrated with the way the last season or two have gone"
Here was his response:
To the fans, I don't think there is anyone as frustrated with this whole endeavor than myself. Being the only guy who hoisted the trophy over his head as Captain. Knowing what it is to be on that side and then to be leading the group to not get even close to that level. I have a lot more conversations with myself. I don't think there is anyone more reflective of their coaching situation in this league than myself. So with fans, I understand that they are frustrated. And they should be. But what I would say there is not a day that goes by that everyone down here in the locker room as far as the coaching staff and everyone as far as the technical staff are not coming together and ask what in the hell are we doing? What direction are we going? How are we going to get there?
I know it may appear at times that we are happy with the status quo, that everyone is just happy sucking. But again as a player I reached the levels I did not because I was given anything and it's because I had to work my ass off to get to where I got. And trust me, I was one of the fewest guys that was given anything. So, from that point I understand the sense of frustration.
I don't know what to say other than there has been an unbelievable amount of work going into 2016 with all of the lessons learned in 2014 and 2015. And as a new coach, there should be a level of understanding that this is completely a foreign topic to me as a professional. In other words, playing soccer and coaching soccer have nothing to do with each other. I just understand the game. Coaching comes from pedagogy.
How do you communicate that? How do you take 18 years of experience and simplify it so that a kid coming out of college understands what you are talking about. And this is where I come in to this with the fans being upset. Understanding how to do this (coaching) and that only comes with time.
My first year was like 'what do you mean you don't know how to do this?' Cause that is a soccer player coaching. You have to get a coach to coach. Soccer players can't coach. And this is the biggest problem with soccer players who coach. 'Just watch me do it, yeah.' 'I'm watching you, I just can't do it.'
There is a natural evolution into coaching, into teaching. There is a certain amount of empathy that goes into this and there is a tremendous amount of self reflection. There is no bull shitting that goes into this. There is no making excuses. It's not the organization. It's not the lack of players. It's simply a process that I must go through as a player to a coach to become a better coach. A better manager. A better decision maker. So for me, 2016 is where we are at.
For as much as everyone wants me to apologize to the fans, I can't apologize for being new. I can't apologize for a lack of experience. I can't apologize for these things cause I don't have it. Now, if I was egregious in my decision making and purposefully tying to make terrible decisions, I would apologize. But what happened over the course of the last two years was a culmination of many things. The most probably is that it takes time to go from a soccer player to a coach. Cause soccer players cannot coach.
I want to reiterate that: soccer players cannot coach. Only coaches can coach.
So there you go. My impression of Mastroeni is that he feels more prepared than ever to lead his team and make a run at the playoffs. He spent the bulk of his off-season preparing for this season and working on becoming a better coach. He was at Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur learning from some pretty darn successful coaches. He was in a pilot program in Orlando for the US equivalent to the UEFA-A license. He is doing everything he can to be a better coach.
I am certainly not defending Pablo as I have been as skeptical of him as anyone. He has made some poor decisions and has struggled as coach of the Rapids. I am truly not sure if he can be the coach of the Rapids. But he appears to be more prepared this season to lead this team and he seems ready for that challenge.
He has the players, and perhaps the most talented group of Rapids players ever assembled but he knows it is all about the results. The team has to win games. Pablo knows this.
The time has come for it to be shown on the pitch.