Commerce City, Colo. – When the Colorado Rapids begin their 15th season on Friday at Chivas USA, one player will be entering his 13th season, Pablo Mastroeni. The 2010 season will be the start of Mastroeni’s ninth season with the Rapids, extending his claim to the longest tenured player in team history.
“I think all the seasons are starting to blend into one,” joked Mastroeni after a practice session earlier this week.
The Argentine-born Mastroeni began his MLS career in 1998 with the former Miami Fusion. The Rapids acquired him in the 2002 MLS Dispersal Draft, which saw the League contract both the Miami side and the Tampa Bay Mutiny and dispersed those team’s players among the remaining clubs.
Despite his longevity, Mastroeni has yet to reach what he feels is the pinnacle of a career: hoisting a Championship trophy.
“You realize that an athlete’s career is fairly short,” said Mastroeni. “I’ve been blessed to be injury free for most of my career. You just realize that time’s against you, and that if you don’t seize the day, the training session, the weekend’s game, the next weekend’s game, that it flies by and then you look back and it was a happy but yet unsatisfying career cause you didn’t get that championship.”
The player that comes closest to Mastroeni’s time with Colorado is Chris Henderson, who played in a combined seven season with the Rocky Mountain side in two separate stints, including the inaugural 1996 season.
While milestones are memorable when one’s career is over, Mastroeni is focused on one thing this year from the first day - making the playoffs.
“I guess the recurring theme, especially in the last few years with this team, is that we’ve been a good team in the regular season, and for whatever fate, seem to be knocked out in the last game,” said Mastroeni.
In each of the last three seasons, the Rapids needed a win on the final weekend to secure a pass to the postseason. The results didn’t happen, and those disappointments are still fresh in the veteran’s mind.
“I think for me, it’s so important for this team to make the playoffs this year. We have great facilities; we have an organization that supports us; we have great players on this team; we’ve added some great players; and there’s really no excuse as to why we can’t make the playoffs.”
To add a thorn in the club’s side, the team that beat the Rapids in the 2009 regular season finale not only earned the final playoff spot, but Real Salt Lake went on to win the 2009 MLS Cup.
Since joining the league in 2005, Real Salt Lake and Colorado have quickly established a bitter rivalry. However, Mastroeni uses RSL’s success as motivation as he begins his 13th season.
“I think as Salt Lake showed last year, once you make the playoffs anything can happen,” he added. “That’s a team that was all but left out until the last game and they go and have five great games and win the MLS Cup. So the importance of the regular season is to put ourselves in a position where we are in the playoffs, and then at that point just compete like we know we can and find ourselves in an MLS Cup.”
And as each season passes, the hunger to reach the elusive title game increases.
“It does,” he says. “But I think this year, hopefully the brand of soccer that we play will encourage us to reach further than we have in the past, and to find ourselves in the spot where we can all lift the Cup at the end of the year.”