Storylines is feeling well-rested and eager to get back to business as usual this weekend against Real Salt Lake. With just three points currently separating RSL from the Loons, Saturday’s match will give the Black and Blue a chance to leapfrog their Western Conference foes with a win.
Even without their new signing Chicho Arango on the pitch, a win is never easy to come by when visiting the Beehive State. With a consistently solid squad and a league legend pulling the strings, the Claret and Cobalt play with grit and pride. Manager Pablo Mastroeni is a big part of that mentality, and he learned all about what it takes to compete during one of Major League Soccer’s most impressive careers.
Mastroeni joined the league in 1998, when the original Miami MLS team—the Miami Fusion—drafted him 13th overall in the SuperDraft. He stuck around the Magic City for four seasons, making 100 appearances as both a center back and a defensive midfielder for the Fusion and staking his claim as one of the league’s best ball-winners.
When Miami dissolved ahead of the 2002 season, Mastroeni’s services became available via the Allocation Draft. In the steal of the century, the Colorado Rapids took the defender first overall, essentially securing MLS Best XI talent for no transfer fee whatsoever.
Despite being born in Mendoza, Argentina, Mastroeni made 65 appearances for the USMNT, having lived in the United States since the age of four. He went on to win three Gold Cups and appear in two World Cups, bringing solidity and undeniable spirit to the American defense.
From 2002 to 2013, Mastroeni made over 200 appearances for the Rapids, captaining the club to its first MLS Cup title in 2010. He ended his career with the Galaxy in 2013, making nine appearances for LA before he traded his boots for suits and stepped into management.
With his playing days behind him, Pablo just couldn’t stay away from Major League Soccer. He returned to Colorado in 2014 as manager, bringing a wave of nostalgia and excitement with him when he took the reins. His first two years in charge were spent building the club and roster, culminating in a fantastic 2016 season that saw the Rapids finish second in the West and make it all the way to the Western Conference Final.
Unfortunately, 2017 wasn’t as big of a success. Mastroeni was fired midway through the season and decided to finally take a break from the game.
After a three-year hiatus, the former pro returned to coaching, taking an assistant position with the Houston Dynamo in 2020 and another assistant coaching position with RSL in 2021. It wouldn’t be long before another head coaching position came his way, though, as his interim status with RSL turned into a full-time gig in 2022.
Mastreoni has been in charge of Real Salt Lake ever since, and he’s brought life back into a club that needed a jolt. Ambitious signings and that same never-say-die attitude he exemplified as a player have transformed the club into one worth paying attention to — and the league is better for it.
Real Salt Lake vs. Minnesota United FC
America First Field | Sandy, Utah
06.24.2023 | MLS Game #18
8:30 p.m. CT (MLS Season Pass, 1500 ESPN)