Pareja makes it official: "Our captain is Pablo"
It was really only a formality, but one that Colorado Rapids head coach Oscar Pareja wanted to announce to his players as they began the final week of preparation for the season opener.
On Tuesday, Pareja gathered the group before practice to formally announce that Pablo Mastroeni would be once again wearing the captain's armband this year, starting Saturday when Rapids kick off 2013 at FC Dallas (6:30 p.m., Altitude TV).
"Pablo has been the captain of this team, so that was not even decision," Pareja told ColoradoRapids.com. "Everyone - all the coaches and players - are aware of that. Our captain is Pablo."
Mastroeni is returning for his 16th season in Major League Soccer after missing all but the first two games of 2012 with concussion symptoms.
"The captaincy is the icing on the cake," Mastroeni said of wearing the armband again. "The most important thing is understanding that you never know a good thing until it's gone. For all these years I've had little things to complain about or gripe about. Being away for a year, you start to realize how grateful you are to train on that hard, snow-pack, synthetic turf field, because you're doing what you love to do.
Pareja on team leaders
"That type of appreciation, not only for the game, but for life, has changed the way I attack everyday. I come out here and am getting back into form, holding myself to the highest level, and hoping the guys are motivated by that - without doing anything over the top, just being who I've always been, working hard, and leading by example."
Mastroeni has been the team's captain on September 23, 2004 when John Spencer handed it to him with three games to go that year. In his absence last year, the captaincy was assigned to defender Drew Moor.
"I know I was wearing it, and stepping in and serving as the captain," Moor said of giving the band back to Mastroeni. "But the way Pablo is around this locker room and this organization, he deserves to have the armband as long as he's playing. I'm certainly happy that he's back and that he's going to be on the field. As long he's playing, he's the leader of this group."
On a team that include many young or new players to MLS, Pareja is comforted in having "6-7 other important veterans" in addition to Mastroeni and Moor as leaders on his team.
"I've always felt that the captain's armband is a symbol, a difference on the field," Pareja said. "But there are players that don't wear it that have as much if not more influence than the one that wears it. We have many players that can be the captain, that are our leaders."