Backsliding Rapids replace Mastroeni as head coach

The man who favored “the human spirit” over statistics has paid the price for inadequate numbers, by which all head coaches are judged.

Former U.S. international Pablo Mastroeni, an icon in Colorado soccer for more than a decade as a player and head coach, was dismissed by the Rapids on Tuesday after being in charge the past four seasons. Assistant coach Steve Cooke has been named interim head coach, and assistant coach Conor Casey and goalkeeping coach Chris Sharpewill stay on.

“We would like to thank Pablo for his contributions to this organization, both as a player and as head coach,” said interim general manager Padraig Smith in a statement announcing the change. “He has been dedicated to the growth of this club for over 15 years and played an instrumental role in many of our successes. Unfortunately, we have fallen short of our expectations, and this decision was taken in the best interest of the players and the organization as a whole.”

Organization in flux. The Rapids' organization as a whole is far from complete. It qualified for the playoffs just once under Mastroeni -- the team captain when Colorado won its only MLS Cup title in 2010 -- and regularly lags behind most teams in average attendance.

The Rapids have been without a president since Tim Hinchey left on July 1 to become the CEO of USA Swimming. Smith was promoted to interim GM and Wayne Brant became interim chief business officer. In January, Paul Bravo stepped down as technical director and vice president of soccer operations.

Mastroeni, 40, compiled a record of 39-54-25 after replacing Oscar Pareja, who resigned to take the FC Dallas job in January 2014. Mastroeni had finished his career with the Galaxy in 2013 and had no pro coaching experience when the club chose him out of desperation, and the club paid the price by finishing second-to-last in his first year and last in 2015.

Pablo Mastroeni

Colorado mounted a surprising second-place finish in 2016 and in the playoffs reached the Western Conference finals, but this season fell back down the ladder and is 10th of 11 teams at 6-12-4. It is 10 points out of a playoff slot with 12 games to play.

In late May, he took a jab at those obsessed with metrics and analytics after a 1-0 defeat of Sporting Kansas City.

“The pundits and the people who like to comment on the game will look at possession and will look at shots and will look at all kinds of other metrics that have very little to do with heart and courage and commitment for one another and I think that’s what we haven’t had this year,” Mastroeni told reporters. “We’ve had some pretty football games and you know what, we’ve lost those.”

He ended the press conference with, “Stats will lose to the human spirit every day of the week. Thank you very much.” Then he left. But eventually, the stats took their toll.

Face of the franchise. Mastroeni grew up in Arizona, where his parents moved from their native Argentina when he was 4. He played college ball at North Carolina State and started his pro career with the defunct Miami Fusion in 1998. He debuted for the USA shortly after earning his U.S. citizenship in 2001 and his 65 international games include appearances at the 2002 and 2006 World Cup tournaments. He also played on Gold Cup championship teams in 2002, 2005 and 2007.

From 2002 to 2013, he played for the Rapids, though he managed only two appearances in 2012 because of post-concussion issues.  He holds the club record for appearances with 225. In 16 MLS seasons, he scored seven goals and logged 27 assists in 334 regular-season games. He scored one goal in 27 playoff appearances.

Eight years with the Rapids. Cooke, 48, is a graduate of Carnegie College in England who started working for the Rapids in 2010 and was named by Pareja as first assistant coach in 2012. He came to the USA in 1996 to coach in Arizona at Sereno Soccer Club after working six years with the Sheffield Wednesday youth system, and holds both the UEFA "A" and U.S. Soccer "A" coaching licenses. He also attended the Elite Formation Coaches License course, conducted by the French soccer federation in conjunction with Major League Soccer.

Steve Cooke

Next story loading loading..

Discover Our Publications