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Rapids on the hunt for a back-up striker

Omar Cummings and Conor Casey are the undisputed starting forwards for the Colorado Rapids this season, and probably seasons after that.

But the dangerous duo cannot play every game and will need a rest every now and then even if they do stay fit. Casey, who signed a three-year extension to his contract just before the season started, could be off with the U.S. national team for the World Cup and could miss some Rapids games anyway.

The problem for the Rapids is who will back Cummings and Casey up when either injuries or rest force the two to play less minutes. Last year’s rookie, Ross Schunk, is likely out for the season with torn ligaments, leaving recent Harvard graduate, Andre Akpan, as the only other natural forward in the squad.

“We want to find minutes for Andre and take that leap of faith with him,” said Paul Bravo, the club’s technical director, adding that the team had been impressed with Akpan during the preseason. But he and head coach Gary Smith are making no secret of the fact that they are looking to bolster the front line with at least one creative and versatile forward player who could offer up some attacking options.

Bravo knows, however, that such a search is not easy. It would be hard to find a player who can genuinely compete with Casey and Cummings. “We have two of the best forwards in the league and it’s going to be a big player who can unseat them,” Bravo said. “We would want someone who is flexible enough to play up front or wide midfield.”

If anything, the club is ideally looking for two attack-minded players, one of whom could also give left-sided paceman, Colin Clark, the occasional rest. Clark, who played an impressive 80 minutes or so against Chivas last week, is still coming back after a season-ending injury last year.

“We want players who can have an impact on the group,” Bravo said. “Players who can bring us a little something different, someone who can give us a spark and maybe come in off the bench and create havoc.”

That search may have to force the club to go outside MLS. Bravo said the Rapids have only until April 15 for the international transfer window to close. A second international transfer window runs from July 15 to August 14.

“We are looking for a creative player,” Smith said. “I am delighted what I get from those guys (Casey and Cummings) but we need to add a little more if we can to give these guys a rest.”

Kansas City Wizards former Argentine forward, Claudio Lopez, reported by the Washington Post to be a target of the Rapids, sounds like he could fit all the requirements.