Colorado players and coaches offer first thoughts on Mastroeni’s departure

Pickens has high praise for former teammates, "hands down the best player I've played with"

COMMERCE CITY, Colo. –  For the first time in more than a decade, the Colorado Rapids held a practice on Tuesday morning without Pablo Mastroeni as a member of the franchise.

Prior to flying out to Chicago for their Wednesday matchup at Toyota Park against the Fire (6:30 pm MT, live on Altitude TV), Colorado practiced without the two-time US World Cup participant after Mastroeni was dealt to the LA Galaxy on Monday morning. Following Tuesday’s practice, Rapids players and coaches offered their first thoughts on Mastroeni’s departure and their reactions to the monumental move.

“First of all, we want to, as a club, to see what’s the best for the entire organization first,” head coach Oscar Pareja told MLSsoccer.com on Tuesday, while adding that he’d be open to Mastroeni returning to the Rapids in a coaching or front office role when he retires.

“But in this case, with Pablo, the respect, the admiration and how we feel for him, in a certain way we wanted to have a good scenario for Pablo. He expressed the intention to be close to his family and face this new challenge.”

READ: Mastroeni's letter to the Colorado fans

Rapids goalkeeper Matt Pickens, now the team’s longest-tenured player (acquired in January 2009) and one of the team’s few remaining holdovers from the 2010 MLS Cup-winning team, said Mastroeni’s trade was a difficult pill to swallow.  

“Every good thing comes to an end,” Pickens said on Tuesday. “That goes with everything in life. It’s sad to see him go off, but we wish him the best of luck for the rest of his career. He’s always going to be a Rapid. When you think of the Rapids, you think of Pablo. It’s the way it is and we move forward and keep plugging away.”

Mastroeni made it known that he wanted to leave the Rapids for personal reasons, ending an 11-year run in Colorado that included an MLS Cup championship and 225 career appearances under four different coaches. The 36-year-old contemplated retirement last season after suffering from post-concussion symptoms, but he decided to return for his 16th MLS season in December.

READ: Commentary - Sad to see Pablo go, but optimistic for the future

And while Mastroeni may be in Los Angeles now, his legacy in Colorado is forever cemented in the minds of his coaches and teammates.

“Outside of Chris Armas, he’s hands down the best player I’ve played with in the locker room and on the field,” Pickens said of Mastroeni. “Chris was a class act in Chicago, so I’d put [Mastroeni] up there with him.”

Chris Bianchi covers the Colorado Rapids for MLSsoccer.com.