Rapids' Cummings fights through pain in search of form

Omar Cummings

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COMMERCE CITY, Colo. — Colorado Rapids striker Omar Cummings has had a tough 2012 season from day one.

First, because of an injury to Conor Casey, he was forced to play the target-man position in the 4-3-3 formation installed by first-year manager Oscar Pareja. Cummings never truly appeared comfortable up there.

Casey returned from injury in late April and the Rapids returned to a 4-4-2 formation. But then nagging injuries hit Cummings. On May 6, he suffered a left ankle sprain, forcing him to the sidelines for six weeks. Since then, he has suffered through injuries to both of his ankles, and has struggled to find the consistent form that made him one of the league’s most feared strikers and a 2011 MLS All-Star.

All in all, it’s been a frustrating season.

“It’s a little bit more difficult,” Cummings, 30, told MLSsoccer.com this week. He had both ankles heavily taped as he spoke. “When you’re in a rhythm and you’re doing well, it’s a lot better. When things aren’t going right, you’re in and out, it feels like you never get going.”

Cummings, who signed a multi-year contract extension with the Rapids in May, is still fighting through ankle pain. He missed out on the Rapids’ match with San Jose last Saturday, a 4-1 loss, and on Tuesday estimated that his right ankle was about “80 percent” healthy.

“We’ve tried to accelerate the recovery process so he’s OK,” Pareja told MLSsoccer.com. “But it’s something you can’t control. You have to be patient. But it’s been a difficult season in that sense [for Omar].”

Cummings battled through ankle injuries in 2011, as well, limiting his production to just three goals in 26 games. In 2010, he posted a career-high 14 goals, good for 4th highest in the league. The year before that he scored eight goals and added 12 assists, which was tied for most in the league.

But while Cummings’ production is trending up again — five goals and one assist in 21 games — the pain in his right ankle, which he re-injured just last week, remains strong.

“It wasn’t ever swollen really. It was a bone bruise,” Cummings explained. “Run on it, jog on it, you feel that pain. But it wasn’t really swollen at all. [But] once the bruising went down, I felt like I could do a lot more.”

Cummings returned to the practice field on Tuesday and hopes to be available for Friday night’s match away to Portland (10:30 pm ET, NBC Sports Network). But the real question for Cummings — and for the Rapids — is whether he can remain healthy and thereby allow himself a chance to re-discover his usual form.

Chris Bianchi covers the Colorado Rapids for MLSsoccer.com.