Chivas clash provides time to shine for Rapids youngsters

Tony Cascio (CHV - COL)

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COMMERCE CITY, Colo. – When the Colorado Rapids face Chivas USA at the Home Depot Center on Saturday night (10:30 pm ET, watch LIVE online), you might only be able to recognize a handful of the men in burgundy.

Matt Pickens, Conor Casey and Brian Mullan were all ruled out for the remainder of the season this week by Rapids head coach Oscar Pareja. And that just reinforced the Colombian's desire to play younger players in the final two games of 2012, which means Saturday’s lineup against Chivas will have a very different feel to it.

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“You just try to see if the game can reward the boys and give them a good performance and a good result,” said Pareja, while declining to name specific younger players who could start on Saturday. “The approach to the final two games is the same, and hopefully we can have the chance to bring the young boys in the two games. We’ll give them some chance for sure.”

Fourth-year ‘keeper Steward Ceus, who made his MLS debut in a 4-1 loss to San Jose on Oct. 6, is all but guaranteed his first MLS start after Pickens was shut down with a groin injury. Right back Davy Armstrong, midfielder Shane O’Neill and strikers Andre Akpan and Tony Cascio are other additional younger options for Pareja against Chivas.

Left back could be another position of change on Saturday night. Pareja has indicated that recently acquired 22-year-old Chris Klute and/or veteran Tyson Wahl could challenge for Luis Zapata’s starting spot in the final two games of the year.

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As for the players not injured, striker Omar Cummings practiced on Thursday only hours after returning from international duty late Wednesday night, but after struggling through injuries much of the season, Cummings is looking to the final two games of the year to pick up momentum for 2013.

“Leaving from Jamaica, come to Denver, go to LA, it takes a toll,” Cummings told MLSsoccer.com on Thursday. “But you just try and give it the best you can.”

Chris Bianchi covers the Colorado Rapids for MLSsoccer.com.