Commerce City, Colo. – In the final quarter hour of Saturday’s game at San Jose, with Colorado looking for a spark off the bench in hopes of breaking the San Jose defense, Rapids' head coach Gary Smith replaced holding midfielder Jeff Larentowicz with Argentine forward Claudio Lopez in the 77th minute.
It was Lopez’s first minutes in an MLS game for Colorado since joining the club on March 2 of this year.
The two-time World Cup veteran had previously only played ten minutes in the club’s Open Cup play-in game at Kansas City on March 13. Since then, Lopez has been steadily working himself back into game shape and made his first Rapids' appearance in an MLS game on Saturday.
“I felt good; of course not with result, because I would have liked for us to tie or do even more,” said Lopez after Monday’s training session at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park. “I think we deserved a little more. But I felt good - felt better physically and very comfortable with the ball.”
The Rapids controlled possession for major parts of the game, but San Jose did well to limit many dangerous chances on goal.
“We had great possession of the ball, but we didn’t do any damage in the last quarter of the field, which hurt us,” said Lopez. “They found a counter-attack and scored, and then dedicated themselves to waiting and trying to counter.”
Having a difficult time playing through the Earthquakes backline, Lopez twice attempted clever passes over the defense. Both passes seemed to surprise his teammates and failed to connect.
“I think it’s a process, I think it comes with time,” he said. “As we keep training and playing games, each of us needs to recognize how our teammates play and try to identify that as quickly as possible so we can try to understand each other on the field.”
Lopez and the Rapids have a chance to continue building that rapport on Wednesday, when the red-hot Los Angeles Galaxy comes to Dick’s Sporting Goods Park for a 7:30 pm. contest. The Galaxy lead the Western Conference with a 5-0-1 record (16 points), six points ahead of the second-place Rapids.
“I think we need to try to return to do what we did in Boston and have confidence in our game,” he added. “We know what they can do and the sweet moment they are in right now; but we have to try to impose our game and try to keep the ball more so we can go at them.”
After his first minutes of action, Lopez is patient as he awaits his next opportunity to contribute.
“I’m good, at ease. Whatever the coach decides is what’s best, so one has to keep working at it. We’re all part of the team so we always have to be ready.”