Gary Smith came under fire by some fans last month when he fielded what many described as a reserves side in the Colorado Rapids' US Open Cup play-in loss to the Chicago Fire. But what such criticisms may have overlooked is the fact that 10 of the starting 11 that day have been involved in the game-day 18 at some point in the Rapids’ 2011 season.
Such depth was needed as the Rapids opened their reserve league account this past weekend, losing 1-0 to FC Dallas on Saturday. Brett Jacobs, appointed reserve team coach this season, knew that several of the players involved in the 3-0 first-team defeat to Dallas on Friday night would also be contributing in the reserve game the following day. As it turned out, seven of the players involved in Friday's 18-man squad lined up for the reserve game.
“We have some very good promising young players and some more experienced ones who have shown good qualities,” Jacobs told MLSsoccer.com.
Such experienced players include Wells Thompson — who played in last November’s MLS Cup final and has more than 100 MLS appearances to his name — center back Scott Palguta and veteran Tyrone Marshall, who played in both games this past weekend.
On the younger side, Jacobs pointed out local product Steven Emory, a recent graduate of Metropolitan State College in Denver, who won a place on the team in a tryout earlier this year and impressed in preseason.
Jacobs, who has been with the Rapids since 2007 when he helped the then-Rapids reserves to a second straight reserve championship, is perhaps most excited by his attacking duo of Quincy Amarikwa and Andre Akpan. Amarikwa is proving a regular in the first-team squad this year and scored the winning goal at Chivas USA on March 26. He played half an hour last Friday and the full reserve game the day after.
“If they apply themselves correctly," said Jacobs, "and there’s always an element of patience with these young guys — they could be very exciting."
Jacobs sees his role not so much about winning the league but in molding young players to ensure they will be ready when the time comes for first-team soccer.
“It’s been quite a journey,” he said. “To be the bridge between the academy, to the reserves, to the first team, I feel very fortunate to have this opportunity and to work with Gary and Steve [Guppy].”
The Rapids reserves play their second game of the campaign on April 14 at Real Salt Lake, the day after the first-team game on Wednesday night.