Commerce City, Colo. - Putting aside the final score, Monday's scrimmage between the Rapids reserves players and the Rapids U-18s proved a useful and necessary exercise for both sets of players.
For the senior team, it gave players that have not played many minutes a full game, and for the 18s, it was a test as they prepare for next week's U.S. Soccer Development Academy Finals in Houston.
"We've had a lot of success this year, so the ability to get exposed to a very fast paced game, a game that will really exploit deficiencies, sometimes is good for us to take a step back and look at those areas," said U-18s head coach Brian Crookham. "We certainly learned a lot and have some things to build on before next week.
The pro players features a lineup that included veterans Tyrone Marshall, Wells Thompson, Joseph Nane, Scott Palguta, and Edu, as well as Andre Akpan, Kamani Hill, Tony Cascio, Davy Armstrong, and Harrison Henao. Edu, Akpan, and Cascio each scored in a game where the score was not kept. Idrissa Camara scored for the U-18s.
"We got a lot of positives out of this exercise," said head coach Oscar Pareja. "It is very important for these players to play games in order to maintain their rhythm, so this 11 vs 11 was very useful. And for the Academy players, this competition against professional is very good."
Newly signed midfielder Shane O'Neill played for the U-18s and Pareja said he will continue working with them this week and go with the group to the Finals next week. O'Neill led the 18s with 10 goals before signing with the pro side, and participate in the Academy Playoffs before sitting out the final match with a head injury. Crookham said that Avery Ball, Chris Gurule, and Daniel Naverez who were injured at the playoffs, have all been cleared to return to action.
"We know how fast the game at a good level goes, but sometimes you're not able to re-create that at training," added Crookham. "So this gave us the ability to do that, especially since we haven't played a game in a couple of weeks."
"They can now measure themselves better," Pareja said about the youngsters. "And I have to acknowledge that the pro players played this scrimmage with a lot of respected and treated it as if they were playing other professionals. That is very important for the Academy players - it's an opportunity and experience that you can't put a price on. It's extremely important for them to see this level, and feel the pressure, and watch how they move the ball. It was very important for both groups."
The U-18s will depart on Sunday ahead of their first game next Monday in Houston.