Injuries still plaguing Rapids as 2012 opener approaches

Conor Casey - June 18, 2011

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COMMERCE CITY, Colo. – Injuries told a large part of the tale for the Colorado Rapids in 2011. And unfortunately for the men in burgundy, they’re writing the first chapter of 2012 as well.

Three potential starters are likely ruled out of Saturday’s First Kick presented by Dick’s Sporting Goods opener against the Columbus Crew (6 pm ET; MLS Live) at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park.

Striker Conor Casey and midfielder Jamie Smith will not play in Saturday’s clash, and left back Hunter Freeman is doubtful – though strong indications are that he won’t play either.

“They’re not ready, but they’re doing very well,” new head coach Oscar Pareja told MLSsoccer.com on Tuesday about the trio. “I’m happy and proud of the job they have done and the job that our medical department and trainers have put in.”

Freeman is the closest to returning to action after undergoing a scope of his right ankle on Feb. 21, while Smith and Casey will likely require another few weeks before returning to the field.

That said, it seems the earliest Freeman could be back is by the end of the month, while Smith and Casey will likely not return until early April. All three jogged together for about half an hour at Tuesday’s training session.

“They’re working hard,” Pareja said.

Central defender Drew Moor (hamstring) missed part of practice as a precaution Tuesday as well, but Moor  is expected to start Saturday against Columbus. And with the injury to Freeman, there’s a chance Moor could slot in at left back in Freeman’s place, although it’s more likely new acquisition Luis Zapata will start at left back instead.

Andre Akpan or Quincy Amarikwa are expected to start for Casey at striker, while Jaime Castrillón is a lock to start in Smith’s midfield spot.

GET TICKETS to Colorado Rapids vs. Columbus Crew, Saturday, March 10, 2012, 6 pm ET at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park