Pareja pleased with positive week in Hawaii

Back in Colorado, team begins last phase before season opener

Rapids training at Aloha Stadium in Hawaii

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After dropping the opener of the Hawaiian Invitational Tournament Thursday night to Yokohama FC, the Colorado Rapids bounced back to take down Melbourne Heart 1-0 in the consolation game Saturday night at Aloha Stadium in Honolulu.

The one-sided display saw the game’s lone goal come from rookie Tony Cascio on a powerful shot from 28 yards out in the 30th minute. The Rapids outshot the Australian side 15-3 overall, including a 6-2 advantage in shots on goal.

Colorado managed to successfully bounce back from a second-half defensive breakdown in the tournament opener on Thursday, when two Yokohama goals in the final 45 allowed the Japanese second-division side to grab a 2-1 victory despite Drew Moor’s 73rd-minute strike.

“We wanted to give the team more minutes, more competition, [and] more international competition,” head coach Oscar Pareja said Tuesday. “It was a tremendous week. The first game was where we couldn’t put things together, the second game was probably the result of the work the boys have been putting together. I thought the effort was there.”

On Saturday, Cascio, the 14th overall pick from January’s SuperDraft, made a strong statement for more early season playing time once again with an impressive display. The attacker was a force all evening, not only tallying the lone goal of the contest but hitting the post and the crossbar as well. He started both games for Pareja, playing 138 out of a possible 180 minutes in the tournament.

It seems to be an indicator that Cascio will see significant minutes from the start once MLS play opens next month.

The lone blemish Saturday night came in the form of injury, when captain Pablo Mastroeni took a blow to the head in the 40th minute and was forced to leave the game as a result. The 35-year-old, whose 2011 season ended prematurely due to a concussion in October, had the injury re-evaluated back in Denver on Monday. According to Pareja, it is not significant.

“It is nothing major,” said Pareja, who noted the team took extra precaution with Mastroeni due to his injury history. “Apparently, everything is fine [with Pablo’s head].”

Omar Cummings did not play Saturday night after leaving the Rapids to link up with team Jamaica in New Zealand. Cummings and the Reggae Boyz will take on New Zealand in an international friendly Wednesday in Auckland. Steward Ceus started in net for Matt Pickens in the other lineup change from Saturday.

Busan I’Park (South Korea) defeated Yokohama 3-0 in the tournament championship game later Saturday night.

The Rapids left Hawaii late Sunday night and returned to Denver Monday morning before taking Tuesday off. The team will return to training and preparation on Wednesday in the lead-up to the March 10 opener against Columbus at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park.