Injuries up top hand opportunities to Rapids youngsters

COMMERCE CITY, Colo. — One silver lining to all the injuries to the first-choice Colorado Rapids forwards is that youngsters Quincy Amarikwa and Andre Akpan are not only gaining valuable experience but also proving themselves very capable of playing at the professional level.

The roommates, who share a downtown Denver apartment with Rapids midfielder Ross LaBauex, look certain to play a valuable role in this Saturday's game against D.C. United (7:30 p.m. ET; Direct Kick/MatchDay Live). Though Conor Casey looks likely to play his first game since April 3, injuries have ruled out Omar Cummings and Caleb Folan while a long-term issue continues to shelve Macoumba Kandji.
 
“We hope that Conor will be ready to go, but Andre and I are prepared to come in and try and get three points on the road,” Amarikwa told MLSsoccer.com after training earlier this week.

Akpan (pictured above), who played only 13 minutes all of last season in his rookie year, has already logged more than 200 minutes in four games this year. He scored his debut MLS goal against the Chicago Fire on April 30 and looked the most likely player to score for the Rapids after he came on for the injured Folan late in the first half of last Saturday's 0-0 tie with the New England Revolution.

Head coach Gary Smith said he is delighted with both Amarikwa and Akpan’s form, especially given the mounting injury crisis up front. For Akpan, in particular, this season is showing him at his best.

“Andre is technically very efficient and I think the only question about him was his desire,” Smith said. “He is a very intelligent boy with a degree from Harvard and some people question how much guys like him want to be professional sportsmen when there is so much else they can do with their lives. But this is the best opportunity he’s had since he’s been here, and he is showing the drive to make it. He really wants to be here.”

Akpan said this weekend’s game was particularly important as it comes on the back of some encouraging results and ahead of three home games out of the following four. Three points would be ideal preparation for such a run of games.

“Every win you get is a chance to get back on a streak of winning games,” he told MLSsoccer.com. “We want to get back in the win column and to keep getting back on track.”

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