Rapids face Crew to start season
Following the shortest offseason, Major League Soccer swings into action on Saturday and the Rapids face Columbus at home in Commerce City.
The March 10 first kick comes less than four months after the Los Angeles Galaxy claimed the MLS Cup title. Now the league and the Rapids begin their 16th season of play less than two weeks from the start of spring.
It’s an early start, kids.
For Rapids fans, it will be a chance to see if the company makeover that started at the end of the season will bear fruit. While former coach Gary Smith is off leading Stevenage in England, new coach Oscar Pareja has quickly left an imprint on the side. Fans can expect to see a new forward, midfielder and left back on the field at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park today.
Left Out: Of course, a new left back for the Rapids is becoming a bit like being a drummer for Spinal Tap. Just like the fictitious metal band with the rotating cast of drummers, no one seems to last long at long at left back. Anthony Wallace, a sometime starter for the past two seasons, is gone with a season-ending new injury. Luis Zapata, an offseason acquisition, is likely to fill the slot with another new acquisition, Hunter Freeman, as his back up. Freeman, befitting the role, just had ankle arthroscopy and should be available by the end of the month.
Check back on this space in two months and we’ll see if either is still there.
Attack!: The bigger difference will come in the attack. One year removed from having a defensive midfielder, Jeff Larentowicz, lead the team in scoring, the Rapids boast a host of new attackers. One of them, Martin Rivero, is ineligible as he awaits an international transfer certificate. Jaime Castillon will be the attacking midfielder in the team’s new 4-3-3 scheme.
In front will be stalwart Omar Cummings, along with either Andre Akpan or Quincy Amarikwa. Conor Casey is coming back from an Achilles injury and is not expected to be ready to go until April.
Solo Meeting: With an unbalanced schedule and the end of moving teams between conferences for the playoffs, this will be the lone meeting between the Rapids and the Columbus Crew this season.
Wounded Crew: Columbus has been dogged bv injury in the preseason. Goalie Will Hesmer has not appeared in a match during the preseason. Stalwarts Danny O’Rourke and Eddie Gaven each spent time on the trainer’s table.
With all the injuries, Kirk Urso, a rookie out of North Carolina is likely to start at central midfield. Facing him will be Colorado’ Larentowicz and longtime captain Pablo Mastroeni.