As new strikers arrive, Colorado Rapids' Deshorn Brown hopes better finishing can keep him on field

COMMERCE CITY, Colo. – In what’s been a phenomenal rookie year so far for Colorado Rapids rookie Deshorn Brown, the Jamaican had a week he might rather forget.

First, the Rapids made high-profile moves to acquire strikers Gabriel Torres and veteran Vicente Sánchez – widely regarded as terrific team moves – but ones that will threaten to at least cut into Brown’s playing time in the Rapids’ final nine games of the season.

But the bigger point for Brown’s frustration came on the field last weekend. In Sunday’s 1-1 draw with Chivas USA, the 22-year-old missed a penalty kick and additional point-blank opportunities in both halves. With two new high-profile faces battling for a starting spot that’s been his 19 times in 25 regular-season games this season, Brown knows he has to put away his chances to continue getting significant minutes.

“Even before they signed those guys, there was a lot of competition here,” Brown told MLSsoccer.com on Wednesday. “You’ve got to compete in training and work hard, and if the coaches like what you’re doing then they’ll put you in the roster for the game, and if not, try to get sharper.”

In a breakout campaign filled with far more ups and downs for the sixth overall pick of this year’s SuperDraft, the one perpetual problem plaguing Brown so far has been his finishing. Using his speed and hustle to frequently put himself in favorable positions to score, Brown has struggled at times with his final touch. While leading the Rapids with six goals and chipping in four assists in his unquestionably productive rookie campaign, Brown still knows he needs to improve in front of the net.

“Even before [Sánchez and Torres] were here, I used to try to compete and try to get in the 11 or the 18,” Brown said. “It’s nothing different, I’ve just got to push harder.”

Even with the acquisitions threatening to cut into Brown’s playing time, the thing the rookie perhaps has working most in his favor, aside from his game-changing speed, is his versatility. Rapids head coach Oscar Pareja said on Wednesday that he loves Brown’s ability to play as either a wing or center striker, something Brown’s done throughout the course of this season.

Brown has often featured as the lone striker in a 4-2-3-1 formation, while also playing any of the three positions up top in Pareja’s more typical 4-3-3 alignment, and that flexibility could help keep the Central Florida product in the lineup.

“He’s a forward that you can use in the middle or the flank,” Pareja said. “I love that versatility of Deshorn. I can play him on the right, on the left, up front. I can play him as company of another forward, with two forwards.”

Chris Bianchi covers the Colorado Rapids for MLSsoccer.com.