Pablo Mastroeni chest traps ball at training on Nov. 1, 2012

Bravo "holds out hope" Mastroeni returns to play

Commerce City, Colo. - As the offseason scouting to strengthen the team gets underway, Rapids Technical Director already has one player in mind that he'd like to see on the field in burgundy next year. Pablo Mastroeni.

"I'm holding out hope," Bravo said. "Through the difficult stages that he's gone through, we've only wanted to support him in anyway possible. He's not in a hurry to rush anything, and neither are we."

Bravo said that the turning point in the 2012 season was after the match at Philadelphia back on March 18. The Rapids won the game, 2-1, but lost team captain Mastroeni with concussion symptoms.

"This isn't an excuse, it's a reality," Bravo said. "(Mastroeni) has been the heart and soul of this club. We missed his leadership, there's no doubt. He's more than just a player that comes to work every day and perform. He's a guy that leads by example at training, leads by the way he conducts himself on and off the field."

What was unknown at the time was that Mastroeni would not return to action the rest of the season, leaving first year coach Oscar Pareja searching for solutions in the midfield that didn't seem to materialize until Hendry Thomas was acquired with only seven games to go.

Mastroeni has been training with the team without restriction for the past few weeks. However the 15-year MLS veteran has not yet made any public announcement regarding his future.

"The way I was feeling in March, April, May, June and July, I would have said there's no chance I'll ever set foot on a soccer field again," Mastroeni told The Denver Post's John Meyer last week. "To come off the field with the guys, lungs burning a little bit and fatigued, it's a great feeling. It's a feeling that I've missed."

Bravo reiterated what coach Oscar Pareja has said numerous times throughout the year about the club's all-time leader in games played.

"There's no deadline," Bravo said. "It's really up to Pablo at this point. If he wants to be around, in what capacity he'll be involved in this club still remains to be seen. But I hold out hope that Pablo wants to play."