Midfielders return to form, health give Pareja options

Play of Smith, Mullan, Cascio present battle for starting spots among six midfielders

Jamie Smith marked by Scott Palguta at training

Photo Credit: 
ColoradoRapids.com

Commerce City, Colo. - Coach Oscar Pareja will have a few more things to think about when deciding which midfielders will start Sunday's home match against the LA Galaxy (5 pm MT, Buy Tickets).

After seeing limited playing time since returning from a torn ACL this summer, midfielder Jamie Smith came on for the final 17 minutes against Vancouver on Sunday and scored the game-tying goal. It was his second tally of the season, both coming as second half substitute, which could possibly lead to more minutes.

"I want to highlight Jamie's (Smith) play, because he's had a couple of really good weeks," Oscar Pareja told ColoradoRapids.com of the Scotsman. "You can see that he's in a comfortable moment. Last week I thought he did very well (at training), and in the game I thought he played very well."

MORE: Smith comes through with game-tying goal

"It's been tough, but I try to come in everyday and do as best as I can," Smith said of his lack of playing time. "I'm no different from any other player on the team. Everybody wants to play. We all want minutes on the field, but obviously it's impossible for everyone to play all the time. I try to focus on doing the correct things and working hard."

Making the lineup decision more difficult is the return of midfielder Brian Mullan and rookie winger Tony Cascio, who have played 27 and 26 games, respectively. Mullan missed last week's 2-2 draw at Vancouver with a strained hamstring, while Cascio sat out with a sprained ankle. Both returned to training Wednesday morning.

"That is good, it's better than having players injured," Pareja said of having options. "At this time, Jamie (Smith) is playing very well, Martin (Rivero) and Jaime (Castrillon) played well. We know that Tony (Cascio) brings us energy and is an interesting player. And Brian (Mullan) practiced today and he's getting better."

Against Vancouver Pareja used a 4-4-2 formation with Hendry Thomas and Jeff Larentowicz playing in the center of the field, leading-scorer Jaime Castrillon playing through the left, and assists leader Martin Rivero playing from the right side, though often tucking in. Omar Cummings and Conor Casey played up front.

Where, how, or if Mullan, Cascio, and / or Smith fit in could be decided over the final three training sessions of the week.