COMMERCE CITY, Colo. -- The Colorado Rapids returned to training on Thursday following a day off as they prepare for their game against Houston this Saturday.
Like all MLS teams, it’s been a while since the Rapids took to the field in a competitive game. In their last game, on June 9, Colorado clinched a 2-2 draw in Chicago with a last minute equalizer from Conor Casey.
Gary Smith, Rapids’ head coach, is glad his side is returning to action.
“The mindset has to change from that of a World Cup attitude, sitting in front of the telly with your feet up, to match-related thoughts,” Smith said. “I think you can see there was some rustiness out there today.”
It’s because of that rustiness that the squad trained well over an hour longer than normal in 90 degree heat on Tuesday, featuring a scrimmage between the starting 11 and the rest of the squad.
The starters, who lost 3-1, were missing regulars Casey and Julien Baudet. Kosuke Kimura spent most of the session running furiously around the perimeter of the pitch, but joined the scrimmage for the last 20 minutes or so.
The Japanese right back has not played since injuring his ankle in the warm-up against LA Galaxy on May 5. Scott Palguta, who deputized for Baudet when the French center back had to go off early in the Chicago game, played central defense Tuesday with the first team and looks to be starting this weekend.
“Conor’s fine. He has a swelling on his knee, and that is just a precaution,” Smith said about Casey sitting out. “Julien is more long-term and he will be another couple of weeks. It looks like Kosuke is coming back and he may be in the 18 this weekend, which is great news.”
Selection dilemmas for Smith appear to be in the midfield. Club captain, Pablo Mastroeni, was suspended for the Chicago game but will return against Houston. Jamie Smith offers another option for the Rapids on the outside and has been instrumental in the last two games, providing perfect assists in the Rapids a 1-0 victory against Columbus on June 5 and in the tying goal against Chicago.
“Jamie has been the difference for us in the last two games,” head coach Smith said.
The coach has also been impressed with the work rate and performance of World Cup veteran Claudio Lopez, who might see some action too this weekend.
“Claudio may have slipped off the radar a little but he looks really bright,” Smith said. “Maybe he has been inspired by Argentina.”
Whoever takes the field this weekend, Smith is happy to have his options open.
“Whoever starts, whoever plays, there is a lot of competition,” said the coach. “The guys know there is pressure from behind and that there are other guys out there who can take their place.”
The Rapids kick off in Houston at 6:30 pm MT on Saturday, June 26.
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