Oscar Pareja

Content with team, Pareja still exploring ways to improve roster

COMMERCE CITY, Colo. — It’s no secret that the Colorado Rapids are in the hunt for help for their struggling defense.

Reports out of Africa earlier this week said the Rapids had a bid for South Africa-based Senegalese defender Mor Diouf rejected, but the club is still on the prowl for help along the back four, and potentially elsewhere.

“We are making some progress,” Rapids coach Oscar Pareja told MLSsoccer.com on Wednesday of his search for defensive help. “Sometimes bringing players into the league is the most difficult part. It’s there but we are looking.”

If history is anything to go off of, it’ll show the Rapids haven’t been afraid to dip their feet in international waters to find contributing players. Martín Rivero, Jaime Castrillón and Luis Zapata — all current staples of Pareja’s lineup — were signed from South America during the offseason, and Pareja has also signed bench players Harrison Henao and Edu during the course of this season as well.

But help along the defensive side of the ball is becoming increasingly necessary for sixth-placed Colorado (7-10-1, 22 points), who have dropped four of their past five games largely due to defensive blunders at critical moments.

“We need cover in some places in the field … and then we need cover, it is what it is,” Pareja said. “There’s a couple positions where we’re evaluating and exploring. I’m happy with what I have right now. But this club is looking for the future, too. And we can have deals that can be good for the players but can be good for the club in the long term.”

In the Rapids’ 2-1 loss to Seattle last Saturday, a missed assignment off a corner kick handed the Sounders an open header for the first goal of the night, and Eddie Johnson overpowered Colorado’s defense for the game’s second strike, the latest in a string of troubling defensive performances from the Rapids defense.

But with flexibility along the back four — mainstay center backs Drew Moor and Marvell Wynne have played along the wings in the past — a move could come anywhere along the defense. That is, if one comes at all.

“It’s a few options that we are exploring,” Pareja said. “How good they will fit into our philosophy and then within the group and the need and the budget and things, it’s not easy. What I want to highlight is at this point, I have the players. I know we can do it. If there is any option there that is presented to me that improves the roster, he will be welcome.”

The MLS transfer window closes on July 27.

Chris Bianchi covers the Colorado Rapids for MLSsoccer.com.