Who understands the sport better than a player? To truly understand a sport, it makes sense that without sticking your nose in books and film for years upon years, you must truly experience it at a player's level. In the majority of professional sports, most coaches played their respective sport at some sort of competitive level, most playing professionally.
Pablo Mastroeni has joined the ranks of players that have returned, not only to their sport to coach, but to their former team to coach. Mastroeni has joined those ranks on two fronts. Denver has begun instituting former high profile players in three of their major sports teams, two of which are owned by Kroenke Sports Entertainment, in the Colorado Rapids and Colorado Avalanche.
Rapids' Vice President of Soccer Operations, Paul Bravo, and Head Coach Mastroeni are both former high profile Rapids players. The Avalanche have exactly the same set up, signing Joe Sakic as Vice President of Hockey Operations, and Patrick Roy behind the bench as Head Coach last season, both NHL hall of famers. Let's throw in one more. The Denver Broncos named Bronco and NFL great John Elway to Vice President of Football Operations in 2011, and have made the playoffs every years since. Now all they need is the head coach.
Both the Broncos and the Avalanche have had successful seasons, and the Rapids are off to a surprising start in 2014. Something about the "Mile High Formula" seems to work.
Focusing on the MLS, Mastroeni is not alone as a player returning to his team to coach. Just discussing current MLS coaches, six of them are currently coaching for their former teams, and many others have coached, in some form or another for their former teams. Oscar Pareja returned to FC Dallas this season, in which he played for eight years. Mike Petke, played for both the MetroStars and the New York Red Bulls only to find himself the head coach in New York after working in the Red Bulls' front office. Jay Heaps, a long time New England Rev, now coaches there. Peter Vermes with Kansas City, Ben Olsen with DC United.
And why not? The hearts of these coaches clearly lie with their former teams. It makes sense to hire somebody that has a need to win for the team they love, along with the experience and qualifications. Who better?
It didn't take long for Mastroeni to find his niche as a coach. True passion and determination to win games has found Colorado sitting second in the Western Conference with a 3-1-1 record. Knowing what to look for in players seems to be a gift the former Rapids' field general is blessed with. New players are constantly flowing into Colorado to find their feet on the pitch, and the formation changes based on the opponent he sees week to week.
The Rapids are planning for a long future of successful seasons, with Bravo and Mastroeni at the helm. It's a formula that seems to be working, but only time will tell. It's too early to judge, but based on what we've seen thus far, it seems more likely than not that the Rapids could be a perennial playoff team for years to come.