A few weeks ago both the Colorado Rapids fans and coach Oscar Pareja were excited at the prospect of adding international forward Vicente Sanchez and Gabriel Torres for the stretch run of the season. So it came as a surprise to many when neither player started last Friday's match at Portland, which the Timbers won, 1-0.
Sanchez was a late scratch after feeling some discomfort in his hip at Thursday's training on Portland's synthetic field. The decision to start Torres on the bench for the second straight match was a coach's decision based on a number of factors, Pareja said.
"We're all excited, and I'm excited to have them, and it was an important game," Pareja told reporters Tuesday after training at Dick's Sporting Goods Park. "But it was an atmosphere that they had not been in - not the crowd - but with the turf, and the physicalitly (of the game) because it was a smaller field."
Sanchez was coming off a fantastic game in which he scored his first goal in MLS and caused an own-goal in a 2-1 win over Dallas the previous week.
"It was simply a little bit of pain and honestly the field was not going to help," Sanchez said of the decision to sit out the match. "The synthetic fields are very difficult, and they are not good for the spectacle. I think that soccer should be played on natural grass, not artificial. I think someone can have movements on natural grass that would be impossible to do on synthetic fields."
Pareja had planned to use the same lineup against Portland that he used to defeat Dallas the previous week, with one exception. Martin Rivero was set to start for Nathan Sturgis, who was out with yellow card accumulation. However once Sanchez's hip did not feel better on Friday, Pareja decided to replace the Uruguayan in the lineup with Nick LaBrocca.
"There was still that discomfort and we didn't want to risk it knowing that we have other players and because of the turf," Pareja said of the decision to rest Sanchez.
Pareja said the decision to bring Torres off the bench against Dallas was based on the fact that the 24-year-old arrived in Colorado two days before the game after playing two 90-minute games for the Panamanian National Team in the week prior.
Against the Texas side, Torres came in for the final 30 minutes and would have scored the second goal if not for Dallas' Matt Hedges own-goal.
"I thought it worked very well," Pareja said of Torres' role. "The plan was to keep the team going. We just won against Dallas and they fit into the team and helped."
Torres said he understands Pareja's decision to keep the continuity up front.
"It's a technical decision and I have to respect that," Torres told ColoradoRapids.com Tuesday. "I'm working very hard and thinking of making the playoffs. It's a coach's decision so for me I just need to keep working hard and wait for my chance to be a starter again."
Against Portland, Torres came in and was asked to play a slightly different role as the Rapids looked to even the match.
"(The coaching staff) asked me to go in a little behind Edson (Buddle) to get the ball," Torres said. "I've played that role on the national team, playing from a side and behind a forward. It's a different position but one I've played. The important thing will always be to play, where ever the coach needs to me to, and do it as best as I can."
Pareja said both Torres and Sanchez are available and he expects both to be involved in the team's next match on October 5th against Seattle.
"We're preparing for Seattle now. I'm not going to wait until next week - it's now," Pareja said. "After Portland, everybody is eager to play now and I want to keep that mode, I don't want to relax."