By Brian Jennings

Pablo Mastroeni was only a week removed from the end of 2014, and it seemed like next season had already started. The Colorado Rapids head coach admitted that last year wasn’t quite what he expected, but for his second season he’s eager to implement his plans and preparation instead of reacting on the fly.

“There’s a lot of learning from my chair this year,” Mastroeni said at the start of January. “I’ve filled out three or four log books of things that I want to make sure we pay a lot of attention to because they’re things we can control. Saturday on the field is something, as a staff, that we have very limited control over.”

So Mastroeni and his coaches have focused on issues they can control, such as the planning and preparation of the player selection in the offseason. “All those things have to be dialed-in going into preseason to make sure we’ve learned from the mistakes we made. It’s the biggest difference in the world to be able to plan for something,” admitted Mastroeni. Last December he had just retired as a player, something that is cause enough for adjustment. Then he was thrown onto a path to control the Rapids at the start of the New Year. “Can you imagine planning a wedding by just sending out invitations the night before and expecting people to go? It will work only if it’s in Vegas.”

Instead, Mastroeni has embraced preparation at all levels — individual training sessions, preseason stretches at home and elsewhere, and the season as a whole. Thinking ahead with his staff is becoming second nature. “We’re in here for six or seven hours planning, so we’re so buttoned up that we have sessions to install the overall philosophy and break down the core principles into role identification. In the first six weeks of the preseason, that’s not an issue.” The coaching staff wants all the basic ideas for players to be set so the Rapids are ready to hit the ground running.

For each workout, Mastroeni said, “the information will be more easily received in a way that is applicable to what we’re looking to do. I want to brief the guys before we start any training session to make sure they understand what we’re trying to achieve. This is the plan. This is the principle. Here’s a video clip of how it looks when we apply it the right way … so now we’re going out to the field.”

Mastroeni’s goal of clarity and structure might help separate what he can and cannot control.

“This is what planning and preparation does,” Mastroeni explained.  “There’s a professionalism, a sense of expectation, a sense of accountability, and all these little things make us so well-versed in what they’re trying to achieve. Hopefully, a reflection of that becomes a part of who we are on Saturday, and we don’t waver. That’s the stuff you can control.”

Additions to the staff will certainly help in that preparation, especially with the team’s wealth of young talent. The Rapids front office brought in Pádraig Smith to be a leader in all facets of player personnel and analytics. Returning to the club, former Argentine legend and Rapids attacker Claudio López can apply a wealth of knowledge to help make the 2015 Rapids more dangerous to defend.

“We bring the experience piece and we gave great young talent,” Mastroeni said. “Now I feel like last season is not lost in vain.”