The second year of the Fernando Clavijo era started with a 30-minute team meeting that gathered the team administration and coaching staff along with all players present.
Familiar Rapids faces mixed with proven MLS veterans new draftees and camp invitees alike as the squad got officially together for the first time at the Black and Blue’s team briefing room at the club’s headquarters in Westminster CO.
Notable returning players present from last season included goalkeeper Joe Cannon and midfielder Pablo Mastroeni. Cannon picked up his training where he had left it last season and granted an interview to Channel 9 after the team meeting (this interview will air on Thursday Feb. 2). Mastroeni appeared to be in the final stages of recovering from the injury he sustained a couple of weeks ago with the US National Team.
Newly-acquired attacking midfielder Clint Mathis sat next to his longtime friend in the back of the room defender/midfielder Leo Cullen.
Among the other known faces were Kyle Beckerman who last season broke his 100 league-game mark Jovan Kirovski who will settle into his first full season with the Black and Blue and Mike Petke who at one point during the off-season was reported to be sought out for acquisition by controversial MetroStars General Manager Alexi Lalas.
Goalkeepers Byron Foss and Bouna Coundoul appeared well fit and ready to return to action. The Rapids' fourth 'keeper the newly-acquired Matt Jordan as well as striker Cornell Glen will join the team in the next couple of days.
Luchi Gonzalez Eric Denton and Ricky Lewis also were all on hand for the first workout and looked rested and ready for spring training to begin.
International midfielders Dedi Ben-Dayan (Israel) and Terry Cooke (England) both reported to training camp from their respective overseas homes looking ready to contribute to the success of the 2006 campaign.
Matt Crawford who spent most of last season sidelined due to injury was working out with Head Athletic Trainer Theron Enns who expects both him and Jean Philippe Peguero to be ready to join the team practices in less then two weeks. Peguero returned to training camp with a groin strain that should be alleviated soon with Enns' treatment.
Second year players Hunter Freeman Amir Lowery Sasha Gotsmanov Josh Elbaum Stephen Keel Dan Gargan and Fabrice Noel were there as well this time seeming to enjoy the fact that they have graduated from rookie status.
Two surprising faces in camp were former Jamaican International Wolde Harris who spent the off-season training in Switzerland and Germany after being waived by Colorado at the end of last year as well as former Chivas USA defender Ryan Suarez.
Recent Rapids acquisition Chris Wingert was made to feel at home by Rapids assistant coach John Murphy who was also his former coach with the Columbus Crew.
The 2006 rookie Rapids class was easy to spot as the wide-eyed Rapids draftees became acquainted with the club’s digs for the first time. Keith Caldwell (Brown University) Jacob Peterson (Indiana University) Jordan Harvey (UCLA) Liam Girard (University of Denver) John Mariscalco (Butler University) Daniel Wasson (University of Tucson) as well as former Boulder Rapids Reserve players Pernell "Josh" Brown (University of New Mexico) Lee Zarzecki (University of Chicago) and Colin Clark (SMU) all were on hand for the club’s first team meeting.
Coach Clavijo laid out the plans for the club’s preseason to the assembled players which will include trips to Florida Mexico and Spain.
As many new and old faces showed up there were ones that were noticeably absent.
Nat Borchers who is currently in Norway was one of them. The three-year Rapids defender who started his career by walking onto the team is probably training with Norway’s Odd Grenland but is still waiting for the buy-out of his contract to be completely finalized with MLS to have it made official by both the league and the two clubs.
The other player whose presence was noticeably missing was Cameroonian international Alain Nkong who went back to his home country trying to gain a spot in his national team to participate in the 2006 African Cup of Nations but failed to make the final roster.
While Borchers appears to be definitely gone the word on the street is that Nkong’s agent is currently trying to take the proper steps with MLS to bring the charismatic midfielder back to Colorado where he "feels at home