COMMERCE CITY, Colo. — The Colorado Rapids reserve team has produced the likes of Omar Cummings, Nick LaBrocca and Jordan Harvey. However, things are a little different these days with the reserve team.
Though there’s not much you can do about the weather, some players and staff must have been questioning the point of a recent Rapids’ reserves game.
Played at the new University of Denver soccer stadium last month against a local Premier Development League team, Real Colorado Foxes, both teams battled horrendous weather conditions, including driving rain and even snow. The Rapids eventually ran out winners 3-0.
Weather conditions aside, however, there may be an even more fundamental reason for questioning the aim of such games. Clearly, such games do give fringe players the chance for some game time and the opportunity to show well and wend their way into the coaches’ thoughts. These games also allow players battling back from injury to get some minutes under their belt. Ciaran O’Brien, for example, did get about 70 minutes of play in central midfield and showed well in the appalling conditions. The midfielder, who has made only one brief league appearance for the Rapids in his two-year career, has been suffering from an extensive hip injury.
Those benefits aside, however, only about half of the reserve team in the game were actual Rapids players. The rest of the soggy line-up was made up of guest players. And, in a team that appears to be increasingly delineated between first teamers and squad players, there doesn’t appear to be much realistic chance for these few players to break through from games that are naturally lacking in intensity.
“It is an opportunity for younger players to get minutes but, what they are getting out of it, I sometimes ask,” Rapids head coach Gary Smith told MLSsoccer.com. “It’s disappointing to see four or five players that are not yours and are not going to be part of the group. It’s difficult for the players to see any intensity in the games.”
It’s not the same situation as when the MLS had its official reserve league. Then, certainly in the Rapids’ case anyway, players could show well and have a realistic chance of making the first team. Cummings, now seen as one of the most dangerous forwards in the MLS, broke through from the reserves, as did former Rapids such as LaBrocca and Harvey, who now play for Toronto and Philadelphia, respectively. Both players were ever-present last season in the Rapids’ first team.
One possible solution? Bring back the reserve league and expand the roster to about 30 players, a move Smith and his coaching staff would wholeheartedly endorse.
“We can only hope in the future that the powers that be would see some mileage to bring that reserve league back,” he said.
Right now, it is difficult to get fringe players proper games and enough of them, he added.
The powers that be may be able to answer Smith’s wishes, even as early as next season. Todd Durbin, EVP of Competition, Labor and Player Relations, told MLSsoccer.com that there is a technical committee currently charged with looking at this issue, and there is a chance that something akin to the reserve league could return in 2011.
“We want to make sure we have the best possible environment for young players to be developing in,” he said. “We have to get the right level of competitive games.”
The Rapids were MLS Reserve Championship winners for two straight years in 2006 and 2007. The championship was disbanded after the 2008 MLS season.