Commerce City, Colo. - Pablo Mastroeni will be alternating two different types of hair accessories this week.
The injured midfielder took the training field with his teammates on Tuesday donning protective headgear. On Saturday, he'll be wearing a headset as he makes his debut as the color commentator for Altitude's broadcast of the Rapids versus Salt Lake match at Dick's Sporting Goods Park (7 pm MT).
"After all the physical symptoms started kind of waning, and I think part of my recovery is to actually be back on the field," an upbeat Mastroeni said after Wednesday's practice. "But more importantly, it's good to be out there with the guys. I think that's the biggest thing that I've missed."
Mastroeni has been out with concussion symptoms since the team's third game of the season. But with the team going through a rough patch that has seen them lose six games in row, Mastroeni hopes his return to the locker room can help lift team morale.
"Obviously we're going through a tough time as a club," he said. "I just wanted to be around and help in any facet that I can, whether it's warming up with the guys and joking around, or helping out from a coaching perspective."
Players hugged him - and some teased him - when he waited outside the training field gates decked in his regular #25 top and with cleats on last Friday. After Wednesday’s training, six players walked behind him while he was doing this interview, singing "Don't call it a comeback," a line from an old LL Cool J song that continues, "he's been here for years.”
The 15-year veteran paused to laugh as his teammates chanted, then continued, “I'm just trying to be out here and bring a new face to the team."
On the side he's also gotten a taste of broadcasting.
"I'm getting more comfortable with it as it goes," he said. "I'm enjoying it and I'm learning a lot of things."
Mastroeni added analysis during pregame, halftime, and postgame of Altitude's recent broadcasts of the Rapids’ matches against Salt Lake and Seattle. This weekend the club’s all-time leader in games played will be the color commentator alongside the play-by-play call of Todd Romero.
"It’s different,” Mastroeni said of watching and analyzing the game from the booth. “Because I think you have to look at the game almost from a coach's perspective, which has been interesting for me, because I'm always looking at it from a player's perspective."