MLS Training Camp Preview: Colorado Rapids

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By AVI CREDITOR

The Colorado Rapids enter the 2011 preseason with an unfamiliar distinction: Defending MLS Cup champions.

Not much has changed in terms of the team's make-up. Captain Pablo Mastroeni is back in the fold after climbing the champion's mountain for the first time in his career; the lethal strike tandem of Conor Casey and Omar Cummings is still in tact, which may have been an uncertainty had Cummings gotten the chance to impress on trial at Aston Villa; and the defensive unit, which had a number of unknown commodities in 2010, has a successful season under its belt as it enters another campaign together.

With the team's role shifting from hunter to hunted, though, only the best will be expected from coach Gary Smith's squad from the onset of this coming season. Prior to that, the club will be tested with five friendlies against MLS clubs in a preseason that will be spent on the western part of the country.

Here's a closer look at the Colorado Rapids' preseason plans:

COLORADO RAPIDS

Training Schedule: Feb. 7-10, Dick's Sporting Goods Park; Feb. 11-16, Westside Complex, Glendale, Ariz.; Feb. 18-28, Dick's Sporting Goods Park; March 1-4, Cal Poly University, San Luis Obispo, Calif.; March 5-8 and 11-18, Dick's Sporting Goods Park.

Preseason Game Schedule: Feb. 12 vs. Sporting Kansas City at Westside Complex; Feb. 14 vs. Columbus Crew at Westside Complex; Feb. 16 vs. Los Angeles Galaxy at Westside Complex; March 4 vs. San Jose Earthquakes at Cal Poly University; March 9 vs. Seattle Sounders at Qwest Field.

Key Arrivals: MF – Sanna Nyassi, Joseph Nane; D – Tyrone Marshall, Eddie Ababio

Key Departures: MF – Claudio Lopez, Peter Vagenas; D – Julian Baudet, Danny Earls

What to Watch For: With Mac Kandji still on the mend after tearing his left ACL on the game-winning play in MLS Cup, the Rapids will need either Andre Akpan or Quincy Amarikwa to take on a bigger role as the team's security blanket up top. Should Casey or Cummings miss any time, either Akpan — the team's first pick in the 2010 SuperDraft (22nd overall) — or Amarikwa would be pressed into duty. Look for both of them be pushed harder than most players on the Rapids roster over the next six weeks.

Also, can Nyassi reprise his 2010 success with Seattle in Colorado? When in form, Nyassi is a menace for opposing defenses to deal with on the wing, and he could interject more width into the Rapids' attack than the team had a year ago. He'll also be relied on spell the 32-year-old Brian Mullan on the right.

Of Note: Cummings was supposed to be on trial, and perhaps on loan, with Aston Villa throughout the preseason, but he was denied a work permit and will remain with the Rapids instead…Marvell Wynne, Matt Pickens, Jeff Larentowicz and Anthony Wallace all took part in the United States men's national team's January camp, with all but Pickens seeing time in the 1-1 draw with Chile…Two of the team's preseason friendlies are against 2010 postseason foes (Columbus, San Jose).

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16 Responses to MLS Training Camp Preview: Colorado Rapids

  1. GoUSAworldCup says:

    What’s a “chamion”?

  2. deron says:

    Peter Vagenas, we hardly knew him, but we’ll….. miss him?

  3. David says:

    Was a fan of Akpan’s during his college days, hope he can turn it up a bit this year if he gets some burn with the big boys

    Those who know the Rapids well, how do you rate him?

  4. gerald says:

    I forgot that Cummings didn’t leave. As usual Casey and Cummings will be a handful to defenders

  5. Big Chil says:

    I’m looking forward to the Rapids’ season. With the same Starting XI returning, they should gel even further and be a handful to beat. They’ve got scoring, they’ve got defense. I’m thinking they turn home into a fortress, where they were 8-2-5 last year.

    I don’t think they’ll be Supporters Shield winners, but more likely a top 3-4 finish, followed by strong contention for the MLS Cup, hopefully a repeat ;)

    The main question will be how the extra 6+ CCL games affect the team–injuries, travel fatigue, game fatigue.

  6. Big Chil says:

    Also, with 4 Rapids (Larentowicz, Wynne, Pickens, Wallace) having the benefit of the USMNT January camp & friendly, and Omar Cummings getting a few weeks at Aston Villa, I expect the Rapids to come into the season in good form.

  7. RLW2020 says:

    really have never seen him play with COL. i have heard Gary Smith say good things about him.

  8. JDH says:

    I had no idea Vagenas or Claudio Lopez was ever on the squad.

    I was certain Cummings would be moved abroad, having him back in the line-up is a bonus. Good opportunity for Akpan/Amarikwa, let’s see if we have something.

    Go Rapids!

  9. Sonicdeathmonkey says:

    I’m pretty sure Lopez was on the roster the entire year last season and played in the Cup final.

  10. Tomas says:

    Go Rapids! I think we may see Anthony Wallace grow into a more attacking LB this year, maybe not running at people with the ball at his feet, but becoming another guy to put good balls in the box for CC’s large and dangerous cranium.

  11. Scott A says:

    A Casey/Cummings/Nyassi could be a nice combination of offensive characteristics for defences to deal with.

  12. EMF says:

    Coach Smith worked hard (over 2.5 seasons) to compile the right pieces for this Championship team and smartly focused on keeping the group intact during the off-season. The Rapids return a solid and tough unit that is aging a bit, but is also more confident that ever. I’m not sold on their depth at this point, although Nyassi was a nice pickup, so we’ll see how injuries and the CCL effect the season.

  13. John says:

    They can go really far if they have the same official they had in the final they could literally beat “up” their competition while playing the ugliest soccer that the MLS has to offer. Real shame that we have to live with this for entire year but hopefully the same official will not call the final next year because he failled to call the last one.

  14. theRapidsareChampions says:

    Andre is a skillful player, good at holding up the ball. He just got signed to a new contract with the Rapids, so it’s clear that he’s still in Smith’s plans.

  15. theRapidsareChampions says:

    The only lasting injury from that entire match was when Ugo Ihemelu snapped Mac Kandji’s ACL after stepping on his shin. After which, the Dallas players decided to scream at Kandji and shove away the medical team as they tried to access the damage.

    Dallas gave as good as they got. If you want to blame Ricardo Salazaar for allowing a very physical confrontation, that’s fine, I agree with you. But if you want to say he handed the Rapids a championship on a silver platter, I must disagree. You can start cleaning up that match at the point where Jair Beneitiz hacks down Casey in the box. Clear penalty.

    If you want a clean match, that’s where it would have started.

  16. John says:

    The only problem with that is Casey fouled Benitez first and as far as the winning goal Kandji pulled down Ihemelu first gaining the advantage. The best part is the Casey should have been out of the game six times over with his dirty play, the facts are that Smith pushes for this type of play and it only brings down the reputation of the league. If you happened to watch the Dallas v. Galaxy game or the RLS games much better soccer being played, possession movement off the ball. The final, Rapids basically playing rugby and getting away with it.