Tuesday's Reserve League match between the Colorado Rapids and Vancouver Whitecaps at Dick's Sporting Goods Park will have multiple benefits for the Rapids coaching staff.
For starters, the match is expected to include Pablo Mastroeni, Martin Rivero, Deshorn Brown, and possibly Edson Buddle and Kevin Harbottle - five players who are returning to full fitness following injuries that have sidelined each for multiple games this season.
"It's definitely going to help," Reserve team coach Wilmer Cabrera said Monday. "Especially the guys coming back from injuries - to get the timing that they need and to get game fit. And the other part is to continue pushing the young guys to be ready for the first team or when Oscar (Pareja) needs them."
Chris Klute, Shane O'Neill, Kamani Hill, Danny Mwanga and Nathan Sturgis - all starters in the 1-0 win over Toronto last Saturday - used early Reserve League games to show head coach Pareja that they could be counted to help the first team.
"It's been happening this year, a lot, that (Pareja) has needed to use the young guys," Cabrera said. "These games are very important for them to take that responsibility and to step up to show everyone in the club that they are ready to play if the coach needs them."
The match against the Whitecaps presents more experienced players like Tony Cascio, Anthony Wallace, and Stew Ceus minutes to stay sharp and impress, as well as younger players like Dillon Serna, Kory Kindle, Davy Armstrong, and Brenton Griffiths to work on their games against quality opposition.
And finally, the match will again serve as a link between the pro side and youth system, as up to five Development Academy players are likely to be called up against the Whitecaps.
"It has to be the connection and it has to be how we're going to develop as a club," Cabrera said. "Now they have to step up, get into the rhythm and see what it's like to be at the professional level."
Rapids Development Academy U-18 players Isaac Martinez, Ricardo Perez, Bryan Windsor, and Austin Seifert - who have all seen playing time official Reserves League games this year - were joined at Rapids training on Monday by Academy teammates Alex Braman, Alex Toderica, and U-16 goalkeeper Hayden Davis.
The Reserve League game against Vancouver will kick off at 12 pm MT on the main training field at Dick's Sporting Goods Park and is free to the public.
Note: The Rapids and Whitecaps first teams don't meet until late October when they will play back-to-back, home and away contest to close out the regular season.