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Youth or experience? Rapids' Pareja mulls left back options

Oscar Pareja

Photo Credit: 
Getty Images

COMMERCE CITY, Colo. – To go young, or not to go young. That’s the question for Colorado Rapids head coach Oscar Pareja as he decides what to do at left back for Saturday’s season finale against Houston at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park.

With last Saturday’s starter Tyson Wahl suspended due to yellow-card accumulation, Pareja must decide between veteran Luis Zapata or 22-year-old rookie Chris Klute on the left flank against the Dynamo. Zapata was injured for last Saturday’s game, but he participated in practice on Wednesday and appears to have recovered from ankle and knee injuries that sidelined him last week.

“We all want to show our coach what we’ve got and that we can be starters, and I want to be a starter next year,” Zapata told MLSsoccer.com on Wednesday. “I need to play to show that.”

READ: Rapids' O'Neill hopes to keep getting calls from US U-20s

Saturday’s game is the final opportunity for Pareja to fully evaluate his team, and Zapata has already had 26 starts to showcase his talents. Klute has yet to make an appearance for the Rapids since his acquisition last month, and the Grand Prairie, Texas, native is hoping Saturday’s match could be an opportunity to prove his worth before the end of the year.

“Hopefully I get a chance to get in at least a half,” Klute told MLSsoccer.com on Wednesday. “It would mean a lot, it’d give me a bar to set in the offseason kind of knowing where I need to be. I haven’t played a game, so I’m not really sure where I’m at right now.”

Left back has been a position of concern for the Rapids in recent years, and while Zapata has helped stabilize the position this season, he has been caught pushing too far forward by opposing offenses at times. Klute, meanwhile, has impressed since signing from the Atlanta Silverbacks last month, and Pareja has said that he wants to see what he’s got in the youngster.

That doesn’t mean he is willing to top his hand on his starting lineup, however.

“Luis is getting much better, I think he is almost fully recovered [from his injuries],” Pareja told MLSsoccer.com on Wednesday. “[But] Chris is in contention [too].”