For a player who led the team in goals last year, Jaime Castrillon has been a forgotten man this preseason.
After the 2012 season ended, the 29-year-old Castrillon was diagnosed with a personal medical condition in his right knee that left him searching for answers. The team did not exercise the option on his contract while he sought out further opinions and solutions, with the hope that he could continue playing right away.
Last month he decided to heed the team's doctor's advice and undergo an operation that, while keeping him out for an estimated 4-5 months, could help him prolong his career in the long-run. Castrillon and the Rapids worked to restructure a new deal and he'll be having his surgery in the coming days.
"First, I'm happy because we were able to work out everything so that I could stay here," Castrillon told ColoradoRapids.com. "This is perhaps one of most difficult situations that I've experienced in my career. That said, these things happen to all players. The important thing is that we came to an agreement for me to be here for another season and now I just want to recover as quickly as possible and return to be as important a player as I felt I was last year."
In his first Major League Soccer season Castrillon led the team with eight regular season goals and four assists in 30 games. He finished second behind Matt Pickens in voting for the team's Most Valuable Player Award, an honor decided on by the players themselves.
Now he faces significant time away, helpless to contribute on the field until the summer, at earliest.
"Thanks to God I've never had an injury that has kept me out for so long," Castrillon said of confronting long recovery. "Therefore it's difficult to be separated from the team because of an injury. Now it's important for me to recuperate as fast as possible, to return to working with my teammates, be available to play as quickly as possible for the coaching staff, and to do this with the mentality that I want to help my team with good soccer and scoring goals in 2013."
The exact date of his surgery has yet to be decided, though it's expected to happen with the next week. Provided there are no set backs, Castrillon anticipated being ready to play in June or July, leaving him roughly half of the season to get on the field. That doesn't stop Castrillon from setting high goals.
"I have to be better than last year," he said. "That's what I'm going to work for. I don't just want to stay for 2013 but I want to be here for many years. This is a team that gave me the opportunity and the confidence to come display my soccer and score goals. I want to stay for many years with this team and hopefully I have the chance to be a champion with the Rapids this year. It's a good team with good players that just arrived and together we can take this team forward."