COMMERCE CITY, Colo. – The Colorado Rapids have talked a lot recently about the cohesion of the squad, how everyone is fighting for each other on a united front.
Perhaps one of the most underestimated factors in such cohesion is the need for the bulk of the team to stay fit and injury-free. While some injuries are inevitable, the rate of recovery can be key getting players the time necessary to establish chemistry, as can establishing regimes that avoid such injuries in the first place.
“We have one of the best fitness coaches in John Ireland,” club captain Pablo Mastroeni said this weekend. “The lack of injuries we had this year was vital to our success. He’s done a great job with our weight program, our extra curricular running that we do when we are coming back from a long layoff. That has been just spectacular.”
Mastroeni has enjoyed one of his best seasons in a 13-year MLS career. The veteran has started in every MLS game except one this season, when he was ruled out due to suspension.
There have been absences, most notably Eastern Conference Championship goal-scorer Kosuke Kimura who missed time earlier in the season with a stress fracture in his foot. More recently, Julien Baudet and Jamie Smith have battled hamstring problems.
But over the course of the season, that doesn’t amount to much. Mastroeni indicated that Ireland and his training staff’s role has complemented the efforts of everyone else involved with the club – not least the coaching staff – to help forge the much-discussed cohesion of the team this season.
“This was perhaps the first year that everyone felt they had a vested interest in the success of the team,” Mastroeni said. “You felt it whether you were on the field or at the airport. It was just one big group, one big family.”
The Rapids are going to need all the cohesion they can muster for this weekend’s big game in Toronto. The team will fly out a day earlier than usual and arrive in Canada on Thursday for two days of training and preparation ahead of Sunday’s MLS Cup final.