By Patrick Shea

Colorado Rapids Head coach Pablo Mastroeni said his group was in great shape the day before heading to San Diego for more preseason training.

“This is a good time to look at the physical periodization as well as the tactical,” Mastroeni said. “We’re looking at a long, arduous season. So now we can establish a good physical base.”

The second-year coach explained why his preseason isn’t packed with games.

“For me, it was important not to go into a game right away,” Mastroeni said. “It takes a day to get ready, a day for the game, and then a day after for recovery. If you put a boxer in the ring, he wants to win. He won’t think about tactics and plans. He’ll fight. I want to use this time to solidify the tactical component of who we want to be, the roles and responsibilities for each player.”

Mastroeni said he’s excited to have former teammates added to his staff, Brian Mullan, Jamie Smith, and Claudio Lopez. The quality on the field and the sidelines elevated in the off-season.

“This is by far the most competitive group we’ve had in Colorado since the first year they went to MLS Cup,” Mastroeni said. “The additions we’ve made has, in a couple days, presented itself as a new-look team. I’m excited about the future.”

Until the collective bargaining agreement is settled, Mastroeni and all MLS coaches can’t complete their plans. “We haven’t been told how many roster spots will be available until the CBA is settled,” Mastroeni explained. “The idea is to send four players to Charlotte on a season-long loan. Unfortunately, the distance is too far. So we wouldn’t send a guy there for a game and then pull him back. But I think it will be fluid because we’ve been working so well with [Charlotte head coach] Mike Jeffries. We have a lot of great opportunities for the young guys. It’s good to get competitive games. In Charlotte, they’ll play with a league table at stake, with fans in the stands. All of these things help the players develop.”

In the near term, Mastroeni said, “The first part is making sure we have enough healthy bodies for the first team. We want to be in San Diego with a great mentality and be physically able to participate, start doing the doubles. We get to use the old Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista. It’s in the middle of nowhere, so it’s going to feel like it’s our own place. Also, it’s good to spend time together away from Colorado so we can bond as a group.”