When Landon Donovan was getting ready for Galaxy practice this morning in the locker room, out of the corner of his eye he thought he saw someone who looked an awful lot like his former U.S. midfield teammate Pablo Mastroeni.
“I thought I was dreaming because I hadn’t heard anything (about the trade),” Donovan said. “I had no clue. It was bizarre.”
Well, not that bizarre.
Leave it to Bruce Arena to tinker on an off weekend with the Galaxy suddenly struggling. And add yet another member of his coaching staff, excuse me, a veteran player he knows well to a squad that needs a little kick up their collective butt.
“He’s the kind of player we’ve been looking for,” Arena said simply as if it should be self evident the qualities Mastroeni possesses that the Galaxy lack (Juninho and Marcelo Sarvas in the middle of the park, he’s talking about you).
And Mastroeni is the butt kicking sort Arena was talking about (even if he didn’t use those words) this stuttering club needs at the midway juncture of the season. Even after 350 or so MLS games over 15 years and 60-plus U.S. internationals including on two Arena-led World Cup teams.
Still, the Galaxy are a club step up for Mastroeni from the Rapids, where he was seemingly being gradually frozen out, — and he knows it.
“It’s exciting to come in and have to raise your level, make a difference here,” he said. It’s a super environment and one I can thrive in. … My contribution has to be one that matches the competitiveness of what already exists here.”
Incidentally, despite a concussion that restricted him to two games last year, Mastroeni says he is healthy and no longer wears a helmet, a largely psychological hurdle he had to work through:
‘I’ve been trying to cheat time since I turned 30,” he said. “Last year I suffered some concussion stuff so it brought me another year – I’m really 35.”
Told that veteran players tend to come to the club as a prelude to coaching, Mastroeni conceded that likely was in his future, too, emphasis on the future.
“If I’m already thinking coaching and I’m gravitating toward that, I think for me as a player it’s so important to just stay focused on what the goal is, one, to remain healthy and, two, to contribute, and if you lose track of those two things you’re going to be a coach sooner than you want to be.”
Incidentally, the Galaxy lost an international slot and a second round draft pick in the trade that included the rights to former Bosnian-American Chicago Fire midfielder Baggio Husidic, currently with AEG-owned Hammarby in Sweden until his contract expires at year’s end.
The move sounds more like an insurance policy than a firm alternative, Arena describing the makeweight in the deal as an option for both player and club, saying he hadn’t spoken to manager Gregg Berhalter at Hammarby or the player.
I’ll have more in Tuesday’s column, including what Landon Donovan thinks Mastroeni will bring to the club (hint it’s in the blog post title).