Thursday, December 1, 2016

The First Big Offseason Decision - Pablo

As of now Pablo Mastroeni is essentially out of contract as Rapids Head Coach (I'm sure his contract probably runs to the end of the month or something but the games are over).  The first decision the Rapids Front Office has to make this offseason is obvious' Will Pablo return?

To review his head coaching tenure so far:

2014: 8W-8T-18L - 0.94 pts/game - 2nd worst in team history - Eliminated in USOC Round of 16 at home by Atlanta

2015: 9W-10T-15L - 1.09 pts/game - 4th worst in team history - Eliminated in USOC Round of 16 in Houston

2016: 15W-13T-6L - 1.71 pts/game - Best in team history - Eliminated in USOC Round of 16 in Dallas - Eliminated in Western Conference Final by Seattle

Overall: 32W-31T-39L - 1.24 pts/game - 5th best career record in team history

So it really breaks down into the Tale of Two Pablos.  2014-15 Pablo was arguably the worst coach in team history as that was the worst two year run in the 20 seasons of Rapids soccer.  2016 was arguably the 2nd best coach in team history (Smith got a MLS Cup which beats Pablo's best regular season).  So which one is the real Pablo?  Did he learn from the last two years and improve as a coach or was this year due to the added investment in players more than better coaching?

I don't know.  I see some improvement.  He's stabilized his starting XI as much as injuries and absences allow.  He's clearly got the locker room as these guys are playing for him and don't quit.  We're seeing some young players like Hairston and even Watts improve under his coaching.  Those are all positive signs.  On the flip side though I feel like his in-game coaching hasn't changed.  He's still late with subs and rarely uses all of them.  He's regularly out maneuvered by the opposing coach, especially in halftime adjustments.  I know his sideline antics bother some people (not me personally).

So, what should the Rapids do?  Here's my suggestion. Pablo should get a new contract either for 1 year or with a team option after the first year.

His expectation for 2017 should be to easily make the playoffs (not clinch one of the final 2 spots in the final 2 weeks). He doesn't have to repeat this year and be in the Shield fight but he can't regress to "typical" Rapids levels. A deep USOC or CCL run would also be helpful.  If he does that then he should go into 2018 knowing that, barring a catastrophic run like the end of 2014, he's not on the hot seat and 2019 is basically assured.

If he fails to make the playoffs in 2017 then the team should use their option and/or not renew his contract and find a new coach. If he makes the playoffs but in typical Rapids fashion "one of the last two spots on the final day or two of the regular season" then we'll have to analyze the season, look at the USOC and CCL play, and have another discussion.

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