By Patrick Shea

I was there at the Peter Johann Memorial Soccer Field on the UNLV campus when the Rapids beat the Rebels 2-0 on Friday, February 13.

I was there at Cashman Field in Las Vegas when the Rapids lost to the San Jose Earthquakes, a 2-0 defeat with a smattering of different players proving their worth for Colorado’s coaching staff and fans in the stands. Most of the scrutinizers at Cashman Field were competitive youth players in town for the Las Vegas Mayor’s Cup international showcase tournament.

I was there (here?) in front of my computer catching all the other Rapids preseason games online from Tucson.

So where are the Rapids now?

They traveled the desert with more than 50 people, a caravan of coaches from Commerce City and Charlotte, players, media, and support staff. Considering the full pool of players in Colorado and North Carolina, the depth at every position is pure bounty. I count nine credible center backs, a half-dozen goalkeepers, four crafty lefties, two starting left backs in Colorado, right backs galore, and a few who can score.

As of today, the CBA is still in purgatory, much like the suspense between preseason and the first regular-season game for the Rapids at PPL Park in Philadelphia next Saturday (2:00 p.m. MST kickoff). With personnel parameters still up in the air, why not see as many players as possible?

Head coach Pablo Mastroeni kept a huge group in camp and gave minutes to everyone. With surprise trialists like James Riley at right back and Oscar Montoya snaking to the left somewhere up front, Mastroeni’s crew is saturated with talent.

Montoya scored the first goal against UNLV, a left-footed blast from outside the box that deflected through multiple defenders. Draft pick Dominique Badji scored the second goal following combination play from Montoya and Carlos Alvarez.

Against the Earthquakes, Mastroeni swapped goalkeepers at halftime and the full squad at the hour mark. San Jose was more clearly in MLS game mode and won 2-0, but a few Rapids connections started to glimmer. Gabriel Torres created chances with Ben Newman, Caleb Calvert, Joe Greenspan, Alvarez, and Montoya.

In their third preseason game (the start of the Desert Diamond Cup in Tucson), the Rapids scored twice in the first half, but Sporting KC rallied to tie 2-2. Alvarez played a perfectly weighted through-ball to Torres, who calmly scored in the 12th minute. In the 17th minute, Lucas Pittinari found Vicente Sánchez, who slipped a pass to Badji for the two-goal lead.

Against the New England Revolution, Colorado scored first again, this time a few minutes after halftime. Consistently throughout preseason, Badji has won long balls in the air with deft, useful passes. In the 48th minute, Badji flicked a pass to Torres streaking forward and putting the Rapids ahead. (Note to boot: Badji doesn’t foul routinely, his shots are usually on frame, and he is rarely offsides.)

In preseason game five against FC Tucson, Axel Sjöberg wriggled free of his marker on a corner kick from Torres in the 80th minute, nodding home a header without leaving his feet. Although the Rapids created more chances and controlled possession, a third consecutive tie looked likely until the Swedish rookie scored.

Another tie will not be an option tonight when the Rapids face Real Salt Lake in the Desert Diamond Cup championship game (7:00 MST kickoff, live on Coloradorapids.com).

Advertisements