Rapids goalkeeper Matt Pickens, the club’s all-time leader in most goalkeeping categories and last season’s team MVP, has been cleared for full training by the club’s medical staff and participated in all drills during Wednesday’s practice at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park.
“I’m a hundred percent,” said Pickens after practice, on his level of health. “But you know, still got to get out there and do the reps. That’s what I am looking forward to doing this next step: get more reps.”
The goalkeeper has missed the last four months after suffering a broken arm in the Rapids match at Real Salt Lake on March 16, and has been doing limited training on the practice fields for the last month. However, Wednesday marked the first day that he was cleared for contact drills and scrimmages, and the club is happy to have him back.
“We’re happy to have him back,” said Head Coach Oscar Pareja after the training session. “It’s very healthy for the club to have him in the goal today and ready to stop any ball.”
In Pickens’ absence, 24-year-old Clint Irwin has stepped up and secured the space between the pipes for Colorado, jumping ahead of fifth-year ‘keeper Steward Ceus on the depth chart. With Pickens back in the mix, Pareja is expecting a battle for the starting job, and sees the competition for the spot as a positive for the club.
“Right now, Clint is the one who is in the goal,” said Pareja. “Matt is back from injury, and now is that sweet and nice challenge from three true professionals that are going to compete for a position.”
Pickens, for his part, knows that he has to win his spot back. He had earlier targeted the July 12 international friendly against Santos Laguna in Albuquerque as an opportunity to return to the field, and will be looking to take advantage of his opportunities.
“Whenever Oscar wants me,” said Pickens about when he’ll be ready for a match. “It’s his decision. If he wants me to go out there and battle for him, that’s what I am going to do.”