Today the U.S. men's national team plays its first match of the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. Meanwhile the Colorado Rapids get a brief break in the Major League Soccer season, although they'll play tomorrow in the U.S. Open Cup.
Between preparations for his own games, Rapids Coach Pablo Mastroeni is checking out the World Cup matches, and this year, he's seeing them in a different way.
"I like to see all the adjustments the coaches make," he says. "I’m watching it more from a tactical perspective."
This is Mastroeni's first year coaching, although he was known for being a great leader as a player all the way through his retirement last fall. Mastroeni played for the Rapids for 12 seasons and captained the team to the 2010 MLS Cup. He also played in two World Cups, in 2002 and 2006.
Mastroeni says that during all his years playing he often took notes on things he liked and didn't like about his own coaches. The notes were not only about tactics, but also about how they treated players.
"A lot of times managers ostracize a group of players because it's harder to manage them and communicate with them," Mastroeni says. "So they'll focus on the guys that are really contributing at that moment, and kind of leave the rest on the side."
Because of that, Mastroeni says, he tries to always have open communication with his players and let them know what their roles are on the team. "Initially they may not like it," Mastroeni says. "But at the end of the day, they'll respect the fact that you explained to them their situation, and why you're thinking the way you are."
In watching the current coach of the U.S. men's national team, Jergen Klinsmann, Mastroeni finds it odd that Klinsmann said publicly he doesn't expect the U.S. team to win the World Cup, or even win many games. Mastroeni suspects Klinsmann could be trying to catch other teams off-guard, but Mastroeni is dubious about this approach.
"As a coach, from my perspective, I would never say anything like that," Mastroeni says.