Don’t get me wrong - if the Colorado Rapids beat the Houston Dynamo for the Desert Diamond Cup, I will be excited. Hardware is hardware and heck yeah, I’ll take it. Seeing your team win is fun, no matter what.
But does it really matter?
Nope. The results don’t matter because preseason games and tournaments are more for the players to get back in shape and for the new guys to prove themselves.
But that doesn’t mean the games aren’t important. Players have to get out there against real competition. Game speed is much different than practice speed, and it’s also a chance for the new guys to step up (or get dropped). I was down in Tucson last week and talked to Head Coach Pablo Mastroeni about his preseason philosophy.
“The way we like to utilize the games is to see where we are deficient. What areas do we need to continue to focus in on as we prepare for the next game? The games are never in isolation,” he said. “It’s not about the result of the game, it’s about taking something from the first game where you were deficient, working on it during the week, applying it to the second game… and hopefully by the end, you’ve touched on a lot of different areas that will prepare you for the first game of the season, which is the most important.”
Integrating new players into the team dynamic is also an important part of the preseason, Mastroeni explained. “Along with emphasizing some of the details in the attack, I think from the tactical perspective, the group has gained a really good understanding. And off the field, the camaraderie piece has been fantastic.”
With preseason wrapping up and the first home game of the season coming quickly, the offense continues to be a focus. Mastroeni thinks that “if we can be more dynamic, have better service in the area, and have more players in the area, we’ll find ourselves in the position to score more goals. Couple that with a very good defensive group mentality and we’ll improve that 5-10% that will hopefully put us in a good position for the playoffs.”
Kyle Kepner, of Indomitable City Soccer, talked with the Rapids Head Coach about some specific players after the win against New England last weekend. Mastroeni called Nana Adjei-Boateng an “attacking, forward-looking player in the midfield". He mentioned that there’s a “possibility” that Kevin Doyle could play the 10 with Alan Gordon up front, depending on the game situation.
He also talked about how important it is that players can go in for different positions, and it’s his job as a coach to make it so that “when they’re asked to play a certain position, they can do it without thinking.” He said of the game, “that was the exercise today. Playing two teams that were completely mixed with trialists, rookies, and experienced pros in both halves, and I thought both groups did a fantastic job.”
All in all, “there’s been some great leadership from the guys, and overall to this point, it’s been a very enjoyable preseason.”