Soccer: Ex-Amigo Mastroeni embraces role in LA

2013-08-07T00:00:00Z Soccer: Ex-Amigo Mastroeni embraces role in LADave Ord Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
August 07, 2013 12:00 am  • 

On the soccer pitch, Pablo Mastroeni has always been known to be up for a challenge.

About to turn 37, the midfielder still gets stuck in when it's needed. But now, in his 16th season in Major League Soccer and far removed from his days as a Tucson Amigo in the mid-1990s, his challenges also come outside the lines.

A recent trade has him taking a smaller role in much bigger pond.

After 12 seasons and an MLS Cup title with the Colorado Rapids, Mastroeni was traded June 17 to the two-time defending champion Los Angeles Galaxy for a draft pick and an international roster spot.

"At some point in my career I wanted to get to L.A," Mastroeni said after coming on as a second-half substitute in the Galaxy's 3-1 loss to Real Madrid in Glendale last week. "I never really had an opportunity to do so and this opportunity came up and they wanted some experience in the locker room, and Colorado was building a team in a different direction. The move was amicable on both sides; we parted ways and we moved on.

"For me, it's a tough move at 36 to pick up the family after 12 years in one place. But life's all about experiencing different things."

In the Galaxy's eight league matches since the trade, Mastroeni has come off the bench four times and started twice.

For a player who's in the MLS all-time top 10 in games played (331) and games started (315), it's a reversal.

"I think my role's a little different than it's ever been," Mastroeni said. "When I talked to (Galaxy coach) Bruce (Arena), it was about bringing experience into the relatively young locker room. It's filling in when I need to, and accepting that kind of role.

"But every time I go into training and every time I go on the field it's to not only fill in but to make a statement - to try to get in that position and force some guys to keep pressing and keep moving forward. It's a great, competitive environment and hopefully I'll thrive in it."

Mastroeni had that highly competitive spirit when he was a young player with great potential roaming the fields at Catalina Foothills and Rincon high schools for the Tucson Amigos, a defunct developmental team, in 1995 and 1996.

He's 400 miles and a world away from those days, but he still has the drive. He's not about to talk about retirement, but knows how to cherish a moment like Thursday's match against Real Madrid at University of Phoenix Stadium.

"It's awesome," said Mastroeni, who grew up in Phoenix and went to Thunderbird High School. "To be at this part of my career and to be able to play not only in front of your friends and family in a stadium like this in the Valley after so many years, but more importantly to play against that caliber of an opponent is a spectacle that would be hard not to enjoy.

"To do so in front of my family and friends is really special, not knowing if it will ever happen again. It was a celebration of soccer in the Valley."

A celebration that rightfully included one of the state's best players ever.

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