Full Transcript of Mastroeni interview on returning to play
How does it feel to know you'll be playing against in 2013?
"I'm excited to come back next year. I think it's been a big moment for me, getting over the hurdle of all the things I experienced last year. So I'm excited to join the team and embark on a new journey next year."
Can you walk us through what you went through last year?
"I think it was a lingering affect of 2011, taking a hit in the Salt Lake game late in the season and I was out the rest of the year. I was never fully recovered from that injury. So with multiple knocks, once in the preseason and once in the first game, it kind of exasterbated some of those symptoms to the point where I wasn't sleeping well, functioning well, off the field - let alone on the field. So the plan with the medical staff and the club was to take as much time as needed to overcome all these symptoms to the fullest and make sure that I was clear headed. Unfortunately for me it took a whole year to do that."
Through that, did you have people, former players outside the club, to talk to for advice?
"I definitely was in touch with quite a few people. One of the most notable is Taylor Twellman, who I was in contact with for about a month talking about different supplements I could take, different recovery techniques like writing in journals or meditating a bit more. Things that were unusual for me, but that I slowly became accustomed to through a process of dedicated myself a few hours every day to do these things. For me, it felt good for me to know that other people had gone through this and I wasn't alone. The community was really great and the people that walked me through this really helped me out."
You said the Rapids gave you as much time as needed, but were you able to pay attention to the team, or was that part of the recovery to stay away?
"It's two-fold. I think one, getting away from the game itself - it's something that I've done for so long where when you're near it, you want to get back in it whether you're healthy or not, and that goes for every player in that locker room. If you have a knee injury and you know it's going to be six months, the hardest thing is going to training and getting rehab and watching the guys, and not being out on the field, or having the possibility of being out on the field.
So for me, the first couple of months were basically to get myself grounded and understand what I needed to do to get better. And then I slowly started to come around, all the while I was watching every game and in contact with both the staff and the players."
One of the first times we saw you back at the stadium, you were preparing to be an analyst on the broadcast. Was that an initial way to get back involved?
"It was a nice segue, actually. It was good to see everything from a bird's eye view and to experience soccer through a different realm. For me it was an interesting idea to dissect from a perspective that was unusual to me and also to see how the guys had muscled through a tough part of the season. The game I did was against Salt Lake, and for me, it was probably the best home game that the team played. It was remarkable to be able to commentate on that game and to see the effort and the belief, the tactics, everything going through and culminating in a great victory."
That game ended a run of bad results, how did you handle that knowing you couldn't contribute on the field?
"You're going in with the understanding that you're helpless, that you're becoming involved in any way you can, you're facilitating whatever knowledge or ideas that you have and using that through a completely different vehicle. I had detached myself two months prior, and knew that I couldn't do anything. That segway, although difficult, was a lot easier than being down on the sideline or being in the locker room or being there every day at training, which was unfathomable for me. It was a nice way to get my feet wet, get back around the team, around the guys, and slowly worked its way to slowly getting back on the field."
And then you got out to training. How did that evolve through the end of the season?
"Like I've said. It's about the club giving me as much time. Oscar and his staff, and the medical staff, and really allowing me to want to come in and be comfortable in that environment and not being forced to do it. Slowly I started gaining confidence that I could go out there and play. Initially I started training with a helmet on and was still really scared and would just do the warmups and really be conscious of making sure no one was kicking balls around me, making sure that I'm out of the way, not going up for headers. But as you build confidence and start to realize what the impact of this has on you, you start to think a bit more rationally, and in doing so, I found myself training two times a week, helping out with the young guys whenever I could, talking to Oscar quite a bit, becoming more involved in the daily routine. And so for me, it was a comfort level that increased every time I was on the field."
We saw that from the younger players, how they were receptive to your instruction...
"That's something that I've always done. Especially guys that played in the midfield and even in the back, I've always enjoyed sharing the little knowledge that was passed on to me, from Carlos Llamosa, Jeff Agoos, and a number of players that I've played with that have imparted their knowledge on me. I felt like I was paying it forward. For me, any time I'm around and can help, I really enjoy doing that."
At what point through the training did you say "I think I can play again, or take the next step?"
"I remember participating in a training session late in the season, the guys were out there battleing, and I remember taking part in a full training session. I left that session thinking, not only did I participate, but I felt like I belonged. I felt like I didn't miss a step. I felt like, soccer-wise, I was right there. I looked back on that training session when I was driving home and was like, 'you know what, I wasn't even scared to compete. I wasn't scared to get hit with the ball. I went up for a header, and I attacked the game. Those are the things I was missing all along the way, the more psychological aspect where - not being able to go in for a tackle, that's not who I am. Not being able to head the ball, that's not who I am. Playing with doubt is not playing like yourself. So I think, I left that training session and didn't say anything to anyone, but I thought, there's a good chance that I can come back and play next year."
After making the decision, what was you're family's reaction?
"My wife started crying. She knows better than anyone the amount of struggle I had going through this whole process. There was times where my life wasn't settled because the one thing that was most valuable to me as far as giving me these opportunities that I've had in my life, was soccer. And it was just kind of taken away. I had to re-invent myself. I had to completely think about my life in different terms. Going to therapy twice a week, and working on, not only the physical symptoms of the concussion, but also the psychological symptoms that seem to scar and that aren't often spoken about.
So for me, going through this whole process and coming home on that day, and telling my wife, "listen, I think there's a chance that I can play next year," she started crying and she re-iterated how happy she was for me to be able to not only play, but if I was going to go out, I'd go out on my own terms. I think that was really important for every one. And I think the kids are excited to see their dad on TV again. I think they were tired of seeing him on the floor watching the games, wrestling at halftime of games while Colorado was away. It's going to be a different experience for all of us next year, but one we're all looking forward to."
And the players were kidding you about it, how much fun it looked like you were having...
"I was. And again, there was no pressure to get back. There was no element of, 'we need you right now.' It was all done by the trust that the club had given me to endure this kind of journey and to come back when I was ready. So going out there and being able to fit in where ever I felt that day, was a big load off my shoulders. I enjoyed the game, and at the end of the day, that's what it's all about."
You had a coaching role and analytic role. How do you evaluate the 2012 Rapids?
"Well I think it was a tough season. Obviously with a big coaching change and that whole shift, it brought some new ideas - some dynamic ideas, none the less. But change takes time, in every aspect of life. Coming into this year, we had some big plans, some big hopes. Looking back, I feel were in 95% of the games we played, if not more. I feel the team played a good brand of soccer and we couldn't catch the break. We couldn't win those multiple games in a row that actually allows the team and the club to take a breath and enjoy that moment. Every other game we found ourselves in a difficult situation which forces everyone to be a bit more emotional - players, coaches, club, everyone wants to win. How are we going to do it? We need to do it now! I think getting two wins in a row, getting three wins in a row, going on a little streak brings the comfort level up tremendously. I think those are the breaks we didn't have last year. I think overall it was a good year to see the style of soccer that we want to play and we can help that with some more results, I think this team is capable of reaching the playoffs and beyond."
With the lack of result, you returning can be seen as an endorsement of the club. What do you see in the potential of the 2013 Rapids?
"I wouldn't ever take part of something that I didn't think could win or be successful. I hold myself accountable and hold myself to that level. Obviously there's going to be some changed this next year. Building off what we had last year, like I said, technically we were sound, we were moving in the right direction. For me it's the ability to go out there and compete, be a leader, bring some veteran experience, and tie up those lose ends where ever they are. And most importantly, hold myself most accountable and find a way to get in those playoffs."
How do you see your role, or playing next year?
"I've only played one way, and that's with a lot of heart, a lot of passion. When I go into training sessions I go in not just to teach other players, I go in every day to get better. And when I leave, on the ride home, it's all about reflecting on that performance of the training session, and what I need to do to get better, how do I need to communicate better to the guys in the locker room who might feel like they're not coming along as well or whatever it may be. I bring the training home. That's why soccer has been such a big part of my life. It's because everywhere I go, there it is. For me, next year is to continue to bring the leadership, the experience, and more importantly bring a high-level of soccer every day and hope that everyone else around me will do the same. At the end of the day, I'm not banking on anyone other than myself as far as accountability. I feel like we have some great leaders on this team, and if the experienced leaders on this team hold themselves accountable at a high level, come in every day and do the professional work, everyone else will follow. I'm one more piece to that puzzle."
You've been the face of this team for so long, how do you handle that responsibility?
"There is responsibility, and it goes without saying. You're being scrutinized for what you do on the field, as well as off. And there is some responsibility, but it's something that if you live your life in a certain way, it becomes a very easy thing to do. When you over think it and try to be someone that you're not, then it becomes difficult. But for me it's, come in every day, good work off the field, be a good citizen off the field, and it's a pretty simple and fullfulling role to play."
Some say you've accomplished so much, you've played in World Cups, been an All-Star, won a championship, why come back to play again?
"I think sports is one of those professions where you have to love what you do for a living. I think the majority of the guys out there really love soccer and love the opportunity to display their skills and do it with a bunch of guys that are moving in the same direction. I think for me, I've always felt like just a part of the pack. I've never felt like I've been on the outside or the guy in the front or the guy at the top. I've always felt like I was just one of the guys. After experiencing the loneliness of not having that this year, the driving force was to be part of that pack again and help move that forward, and bring belief and confidence and leadership, and understand that if we all pull in the same direction there's no doubt in my mind that we can make the playoffs and beyond."