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Rapids Notebook: Pareja trying out 4-4-2 as injured return

Pareja, COL v POR preview

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COMMERCE CITY, Colo. — Colorado Rapids head coach Oscar Pareja isn’t exactly afraid to mix things up.

It was no surprise to see the Rapids switch formations in practice Thursday to a 4-4-2 look, with veterans Conor Casey and Omar Cummings featured up top for Pareja.

“I’m trying to look for consistency at that part," Pareja told MLSsoccer.com on Thursday. "But at this point, the challenges that we have had during the first part of the season, and now that we are getting players back, and then getting together, we’re trying to get the best of them.

“For me, the formation is obviously important, but the personnel that is there is what make things happen. But we’re trying to check different areas that we have during the week to see if we finally can get the boys to where there’s going to be consistency in the lineup.”

Pareja had mostly stuck by his traditional 4-3-3 look over the course of the last two months, but that changed yesterday as more players continue to return to his lineup. Casey and Cummings are expected to play together Saturday against Portland (9 pm ET, watch LIVE online) for the first time since last July, when Casey ruptured his Achilles heel in a game at Seattle.

With injuries plaguing the Rapids all season long, Pareja has been forced to adapt his lineup accordingly, frequently dipping deep into his bench to mix and match. But with health rapidly returning to his squad — Cummings is a strong contender to start for the first time in nearly two months Saturday — Pareja’s options are growing, and the Rapids lineup is likely to change accordingly.

Rapids waive three

Colorado cut ties with three reserve players on Thursday. Midfielder Ross LaBauex, striker Quincy Amarikwa and defender Eddie Adabio all were let go after the trio failed to establish themselves in the first team.

Amarikwa had been away from the team for months after scoring in the Rapids’ opener against Columbus, although last season the speedy 24-year-old started five games last season as a regular contributor off the bench.

LaBauex also saw action last year, playing in 11 games, but made a crucial error in his lone start of 2012, gifting an ill-advised back pass that turned into a Red Bulls goal in the Rapids’ 4-1 loss to New York March 25.

Adabio did not appear in a league match for Colorado after being taken 18th overall in the 2011 MLS SuperDraft.

O’Neill OK despite concussion

While playing with the Rapids U-18 team earlier this week in Frisco, Texas, newly signed youth academy product Shane O’Neill suffered a concussion while going up for a header during a match against Empire United.

The 18-year-old from Boulder’s Fairview High School — who signed his first professional contract with the Rapids last week — passed tests this week and is expected to resume full training soon.

O’Neill sported a healthy black eye when he returned to practice Thursday, and took plenty of jabs from teammates for it. But aside from a bruised eye and ego, the youngster is expected to be fine.

Chris Bianchi covers the Colorado Rapids for MLSsoccer.com.