Friday, July 11, 2008

Pablo Ponders as Rapids Go West

Pablo Mastroeni, the veteran defensive midfielder and longtime face of the Colorado Rapids, may want to leave Denver and seek to further his career in Europe before his contract expires in December. He is reported to be considering that option, according to today's Denver Post (link below). Interestingly, while he was previously connected only with Spain and Italy (he holds an Italian passport and speaks Spanish), the report says England is also a possibility. As Rapids' coach, Fernando Clavijo, told me today at training, Pablo could play anywhere. He clearly has the pedigree and is held in particularly high regard in Italy where his performances in World Cup 2006 were widely praised despite the team's relatively poor showing. "There is nobody at this club I would be happier to see perform in Europe," Clavijo said. "I think next year is more likely, however. For now, he has to focus on the Rapids because it will be his peformances here that will catch people's eye." Clavijo stated that Mastroeni has not had any contact with any club in Europe so far. He has been linked to Cagliari of Italy's Serie A. Livorno, now in Serie B and at the centre of match-fixing allegations, and Atalanta have also been speculated as Italian possibilities. With England now in the mix, it should be noted that Aston Villa coach, Martin O'Neill, is reported this week in the Birmingham Mail newspaper as hinting he is close to signing several deals and is also on the lookout for a new club captain with the imminent departure of Gareth Barry. With one of the smallest Premier League squads, O'Neill is definitely looking towards the US and appears particularly keen on boosting his defense. The problem with all of the European leagues is that they are off kilter with the MLS and begin competitive games in August, making it difficult for the likes of Mastroeni to secure a contract at the end of his one in Denver. Watch this space.
Meanwhile, Mastroeni will be at the heart of the defense in the Rapids' game tomorrow against San Jose Earthquakes. Expect an unchanged eleven from the team that dismantled New York Red Bulls on Independence Day. We all know the Rapids' struggles on the road this season and how they fail to win if they don't score first. With the confidence levels high after last week, maybe this will be the game that turns things around. With another away game next week against Dallas followed by three home games in a row, this is a crucial time for the Rapids. As midfielder Terry Cooke has pointed out, this could be the time to put together four or five wins on the trot. Now that would be sweet.

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