Limping Rapids facing big test of depth on front line

Injuries to the Colorado Rapids’ forward line have plagued them since the preseason. They’ve taken their toll, but in the process may be presenting unexpected opportunities for squad players who, at the start of this season, would not have thought that they may be partnering Conor Casey up top.

Midfielders Sanna Nyassi (above) and Ross LaBaeux are the latest options for Gary Smith. The two played up top Wednesday in a weather aborted scrimmage against local team Real Colorado Foxes.

“The good thing is that the pair of them are both very keen,” Smith said of Nyassi and LaBaeux. “Sanna, in particular, has a real turn of pace.”

Smith isn’t afraid to try things given the injury situation. LaBauex, who has made several late substitute appearances this year, played in more of a withdrawn forward role in the New England game May 7. The second-year pro last played as a true striker in Texas at youth level.

In last weekend’s game 1-1 draw at D.C. United, Smith brought on Nyassi to play with Casey up front. The Gambian winger was a handful going forward and almost won a penalty at the death.

“I thought he got into some nice areas,” Smith told MLSsoccer.com after the game. “He is very quick on his feet.”

The Rapids’ strike force injuries have been well documented, and the conversion — however temporary — of the two midfielders shows just how deep Smith has had to dig.

Omar Cummings and Caleb Folan will again be out on Sunday against Toronto FC (7 pm ET, Direct Kick, MatchDay Live) as they continue to rehab from a sprained ankle and groin problem, respectively.

Nonetheless, Smith told MLssoccer.com on Thursday that their situation is “looking positive, very encouraging,” and he is targeting a possible bench spot for them next weekend against Sporting Kansas City.

Macoumba Kandji is slowly heading toward full health while rehabbing the anterior cruciate ligament he tore in the MLS Cup, and Casey himself only returned to action for the first time in more than a month against DC last weekend.

Andre Akpan and Quincy Amarikwa, one of whom will likely start alongside Casey on Sunday, have performed well when they have been given their opportunities. They will clearly be uppermost in Smith’s mind when it comes to both Sunday's game next week’s matchup against the New York Red Bulls.