The Colorado Rapids have moved to secure their future. At a press conference on Thursday the club announced that Gary Smith has been hired on as Head Coach and that captain Pablo Mastroeni signed a new deal with the team.
Smith couldn't quite turn Colorado's fortunes around enough to make the playoffs, but the newly appointed head coach managed to convince team captain and nine-time MLS All-Star Mastroeni to continue with the club.
"What Gary brought to the team, for me anyways, was a profound love for the sport," said the U.S. national team holding midfielder. "When I got in my car every morning, I thought about the training session and thought about what I needed to do to be the best player at training session today. Those are feelings I haven't had in many, many years."
Earlier this year Mastroeni proclaimed that he was ready to try a stint abroad. But then head coach Fernando Clavijo was fired. Smith was brought in and Colorado enjoyed a revival of sorts, moving back to a more rigid and direct style of play. Mastroeni continued to plug whatever defensive holes that emerged, be it at center back or defensive midfield, and the results started turning out well.
However, the party was spoiled by Real Salt Lake, who scored in the last minute of the last regular season game to knock Colorado out of the playoffs. Despite that heartbreak, Mastroeni had seen enough to change his mind and stick around.
"I can honestly say it wasn't a hard decision for me," he said. "The last two months with Gary at the helm completely changed my mind about where I wanted to be, where my heart was. Coming out to training everyday and sharing the field with my teammates in a competitive environment, in an environment that I have wanted for years at the club level -- and unfortunately only found at the national-team level -- we found that this year."
As if to further emphasize the positive changes Smith has brought the club, the administration announced that he will be the team's head coach for next season.
"I am very excited to announce today that Gary Smith will have the 'interim' taken off of his title and will become the head coach for the Colorado Rapids," said Managing Director Jeff Plush at the press conference. "It is a job that he has earned. "We are very pleased with where we went in the last 11 games of the season. The team was performing in a manner that we can be proud of and in a style that we think we can call our own."
With the club's important pieces locked in for the future, the organization can head into the winter break much more at east about its prospects next season.