Recovering Smith may be Rapids' wild card
Barring injury, a World Cup call-up or a catastrophic loss
of form, the front two for the Colorado Rapids largely pick themselves.
Omar Cummings and Conor Casey, scorers of Colorado’s three
goals so far this season, aren’t going anywhere soon. Gary Smith also seems to
be getting closer to figuring out a consistent line-up for his defense.
It’s the midfield that still poses some questions,
especially out wide. While Pablo Mastroeni and new signing Jeff Larentowicz
appear to be the favored duo in the center of the park, Smith still has some
work to do on what might best suit the team on the wing.
Injuries have played a major part in the flanks still being
up for grabs. Colin Clark is almost 100 percent after his season-ending injury
last year and, if he can keep healthy, is a clear choice on the left side.
Mehdi Ballouchy, a more natural central midfielder, has
started all three league games so far wider on the right, being replaced in the
second half by either Wells Thompson or, in the last game against Kansas, by
Jamie Smith for his first action of the season. Kosuke Kimura, who has started
all three games so far at right back, could be another option.
Smith, a Scottish winger with ties to assistant coach Steve
Guppy through their days together at Celtic, has himself been battling back
from a season-ending injury last year. A hamstring problem at the end of
preseason has further hampered his return.
But the former Scottish international got about half an hour
under his belt in the league game against Kansas City and followed that up with
about an hour’s work in the U.S. Open Cup victory against the Wizards on
Tuesday. And he says it’s a relief to be back.
“Injury-wise, there’s been a number of setbacks,” Smith said
after training Thursday. “I’m feeling really happy with it now.”
The five-day trip to Kansas had its ups and downs for the
whole squad but was ultimately positive. Smith himself was just happy to get
some game time.
“The game itself on the night was a bit disappointing as we
didn’t take anything from the game,” Smith said of the MLS game Saturday. “I
felt we deserved at least a point. We put a lot of hard work into it. Going into
the game on Tuesday, I guess we kind of regrouped. There [were] a few changes
made. The way we approached the game was fantastic. We worked ever so hard and
we deserved the victory.”
After the narrow confines of the Wizards field, Smith said
he was looking forward to making his home debut on the comparative hugeness of
Dick’s Sporting Goods Park this weekend when the Rapids take on Toronto.
“The field we have here is fantastic,” he said. “It’s like a
bowling green. It’s excellent and it’s really big. It benefits our game because
we put more emphasis on passing and moving I think the field plays more to our
Smith, whom Gary Smith brought to Colorado last season in a
controversial trade that saw fan favorite Terry Cooke leave the club, will be
anxious to impress after a stop-start career in the Rocky Mountains that has
been curtailed by injury.
The Scotsman looks probable to start but he is taking
nothing for granted and will be grateful for some quality time on his home
“The most important thing is we get the victory,” he said.