COMMERCE CITY, Colo. — Rapids coach Gary Smith may be getting closer to what he thinks is his best lineup, but he’ll have an additional opportunity over the next week to look at some other players who may be challenging for a starting position.
Suddenly, the Rapids are due to play the rejuvenated Kansas City Wizards twice in the space of four days. Once in a regular-season MLS game on Saturday and then again next Tuesday, April 13, in a U.S. Open Cup game.
While the bulk of Saturday’s squad looks likely to remain in Kansas over the weekend, some other players not necessarily involved this weekend will be flying out East while other veterans will be returning to Colorado.
“We want to win it,” Smith said Wednesday of the Open Cup game. “Some of these [other] guys are going to get some football and it will be a mix of the group.”
Smith added that the likes of Colin Clark (still recovering from a major ligament injury), Conor Casey and Pablo Mastroeni (with his limited preseason) will be returning home after Saturday’s game.
Casey’s probable absence on Tuesday is likely to give rookie Andre Akpan some decent playing time up front, possibly for at least part of the game with Omar Cummings. The Rapids have also recently bolstered their forward line with the signing last week of Claudio López and Wednesday with former San Jose product Quincy Amarikawa.
López, still working on his fitness after some time off in his native Argentina, isn’t currently cleared to play for the Rapids because of visa issues. The club said Wednesday it’s aiming to get him eligible for the weekend.
Probably the most interesting selection area remains the defense. While Marvell Wynne played brilliantly in the opening game against Chivas USA, there were some issues raised about some of his play at center back in the 2-2 draw against Chicago at the weekend.
Julien Baudet, seen as a natural defensive leader by Smith, will be itching to get some playing time at that position after coming on as a sub in the Chicago game for the last 10 minutes.
Whether he gets that opportunity Saturday or in the Open Cup game will be one of the more fascinating dilemmas for Smith to work out as he get closer to the formation he thinks will ultimately work for the Rapids.