Two days after suffering the most lopsided loss of the season at New York, losing 3-0 in an Open Cup play-in game, the Rapids were back in Colorado on Friday morning going through the final workout ahead of Saturday’s home game against Seattle.
The Open Cup play-in game gave the coaching staff an opportunity to see a handful of the reserve players on the field with many first team regulars.
“Of course it is disappointing defeat,” said Smith. “I think we all felt we should have achieved more; but that is the Cup. You get one opportunity and no time to recover. But it was good for the guys who haven’t necessarily been involved a huge amount.”
Mixed in among the eight regulars on Wednesday were rookies Andre Akpan and Ross LaBauex, second year player Quincy Amarikwa, first year Rapids keeper Ian Joyce, and veteran forward Claudio Lopez.
Smith does not see these players as reserves, but rather important players that need to be ready if called upon.
“We’ve got, whether it be some talented draft picks, or talented experienced players as with Ian (Joyce) and more experience with Claudio (Lopez),” said Smith. “These guys are part of what we’re going to achieve. At the moment the first team is playing ever so well; results have not always gone our way. But those guys deserve to be performing in the shape and group that they’re in.”
One example of a player that took advantage of minutes in an Cup game is Wells Thompson. Prior to the Rapids 2-1 play-in win at Kansas City in April, Thompson had not stated any of the first three League games. After scoring twice at KC, he has started four of the five MLS games since.
“I’ve not got too many concerns about adding Scott Palguta, Ross LaBauex, Quincy, Michael Holody – these guys are knocking on the door,” said Smith. “They’re desperate for their chance. Sadly they don’t get enough games outside of the first team games to keep that sharpness and match fitness, but it’s great to see that group together.”
While field players can provide depth, the goalkeeper position is bit different. In the case of the Rapids, where Matt Pickens is the number one keeper, backup Ian Joyce is only one play from having to enter.
“You always want games, that’s what we’re in the business for,” said Joyce, who made his Rapids debut in the 3-0 loss at NY. “But staying sharp, (playing) 90 minutes on a full size field is what you want in any kind of game, whether it's a friendly or Cup or League game. It was good to get a game in, without a doubt. Unfortunately the result didn’t go our way. But I didn’t feel out of place, so in that respect it was positive.”
Joyce joined the Rapids in the spring from English League One side Southend United. His last competitive game was against Leyton Orient in January of this year.
“Ian’s been a very good addition to this group,” said Smith. “I didn’t think there was a huge amount he could do about any of the goals. While he might be dejected about the result, it was an invaluable experience for him – at Red Bull Arena, against a good team and opponent. Hopefully, if he’s called upon, he’ll be able to draw on that experience.”