Mastroeni planning to ride hot defense – for now
COMMERCE CITY, Colo.- Colorado Rapids head coach Pablo Mastroeni has plowed through a different lineup in each of his five games in charge so far, but he might be stabilizing his back line for the time being.
After a rash of early suspensions and injuries to the defense, everybody is available to Mastroeni for Saturday’s clash with the San Jose Earthquakes at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park (4 p.m MT). But with his defense stepping up its play of late (one combined goal allowed in back-to-back road wins over Vancouver and Toronto), the first-year head coach’s inclination is to leave things still along his back four.
“In this particular case, it’s one of those things where you feel like you have continuity with the group,” Mastroeni said this week. “The game kind of speaks to me. Like, if this is working, why are we going to change it?
"If there needs to be a change, whether it’s fatigue, whether it’s form, then we’ll make those changes accordingly with every player on the field. I don’t look to solidify anything. I look to solidify a mindset that will be instilled on every player on the field.”
For now, Marvell Wynne is the odd man out. With Wynne out for the Rapids’ 2-1 win at Vancouver on April 5 due to a red card the game before, they turned to new signing Thomas Piermayr, who impressed in his debut. Mastroeni is not wanting to tinker with a winning lineup, and that’s set to continue – for now.
“Coming off a good performance in Vancouver, I didn’t want to change that up at all,” Mastroeni said. “There’s going to be times where it could change based on minutes logged and playing on turf or travel or a knock and a bruise. There are so many different variables. But for the most part, that’s the mindset.”
Another shift saw the ever-versatile Shane O’Neill, who started the season at right back, return to center (he impressed in 24 starts there last season), and while he’s happy to play wherever he’s asked, the 20-year-old would still like to eventually return to his original midfield position.
“It was the first game I felt pretty settled this season,” O’Neill told MLSsoccer.com. “Vancouver, a couple lapses mentally, getting back into the center back position. I did feel pretty comfortable up in Toronto. That’s a good stepping stone to get into the game a little bit, be comfortable no matter where I’m in.
“Wherever they need me – center back, right back – in my head, I still think I’m a midfielder, [but] I might be waiting a few years for that opportunity.”
Chris Bianchi covers the Colorado Rapids for MLSsoccer.com