Pareja meets with Rapids players for first time as head coach

Pareja meets with team for first time as head coach

Commerce City, Colo. - After a few days of working on fitness, the players arrived at Dick's Sporting Goods Park on Monday for the first official day of preseason training.

New head coach Oscar Pareja started the morning with his first official meeting with the entire team since being named head coach on January 5. The former MLS player explain his expectations of the players, as well as what they can expect from him as a coach.

"I don't want to prepare for the first scrimmage, I want to prepare for March 10th," Pareja told the team, aiming for the season opener against the Columbus Crew. "If you are stepping on the field, I want you to give me 100 percent, because 99 is not enough."

The majority of the 2011 roster is back and they are joined for the start of preseason by three draft picks, four trialists, and two academy players.

"I need the rookies to show me why you deserve a spot on this roster," Pareja told them. "I want you to show us right away, with every detail, that you are up to this level."

"I want the guys that have been here two or three years and don't play much, let's call them the 'reserve players," he added. "I want you to show us that you are not going to be a reserve player again. I can identify who feels he is a reserve, and I don't like that. I want every one to 'want it.'"

Pareja told the players that he has spent the last two weeks watching all their games from last year, including reserve team matches.

"I know that we can play the game here well, because you have played the game well," he said. "But I think we can play better, because I want to raise my own bar, and I want you to raise your own bar, too."

He then addressed the returning players who are carrying injuries.

"We need you back, Conor (Casey)," he said to the club's all-time leading scorer. "We need you back, Anthony (Wallace). Kosuke (Kimura), Jamie (Smith), we need you out there. We'll be there for you guys 24 hours a day, but we need you back, this club needs you back."

Casey tore his Achilles tendon in July and missed the rest of the year. Wallace had microfracture surgery on his knee and also missed the final part of last season. Smith tore his ACL in the playoff win over Columbus, and Kimura broke a bone in his foot in the first playoff game against Kansas City. All are ahead of schedule on their recoveries, with Kimura the most likely to begin training in the coming weeks. Casey, Smith, and Wallace could be in line to begin training in early March.

In wrapping up the meeting, Pareja pointed to the back of the room to veteran Pablo Mastroeni.

"Pablo, is our captain, with a capital C," Pareja told the group. "Lead us, Pablo."

And so they went out to the turf fields to begin their first training session under the new direction.