Mixing and Matching: Suspensions, injury leave Colorado Rapids shorthanded ahead of Portland trip

Pablo Mastroeni, Colorado Rapids (April 26, 2014)

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COMMERCE CITY, Colo.- Just as the Colorado Rapids appeared to be heading toward full health, suspensions and an injury will leave them shorthanded heading into Friday night’s tilt against the Portland Timbers at Providence Park (11 pm ET, NBCSN).

Defender Shane O’Neill was suspended for one game and fined an undisclosed on amount on Tuesday for his 11th-minute tackle on Union midfielder Danny Cruz. Rapids teammates Vicente Sanchez (disciplinary committee) and Nick LaBrocca (yellow card accumulation) will also be suspended for Friday’s match, leaving the Rapids especially short on midfielders.

On top of that, it appears midfielder José Mari (ankle) will also be unavailable after he did not train on Tuesday.

“Ankle injuries, if you don’t deal with it now, you’re going to eat it the rest of the year,” head coach Pablo Mastroeni told reporters of José Mari’s injury after practice on Tuesday. “We’ll look to hold down the fort until we get all the pieces together and charge forward in the meantime.”

As for possible replacements, Kamani Hill, Dillon Serna, Carlos Alvarez and Marlon Hairston all figure to battle for the two open spots vacated by LaBrocca and Sanchez. Rookie midfielder Jared Watts, despite struggling in his last two matches, will likely handle defensive midfield responsibilities again on Friday.

As for O’Neill’s center back spot, Marvell Wynne can slot back into a center back role, and Thomas Piermayr and Chris Klute can man right back, with Marc Burch available on the left.

In other Rapids news on Tuesday, winger Charles Eloundou (tailbone) trained off to the side, and third-string goalkeeper Joe Nasco was loaned out to NASL side Atlanta Silverbacks, with whom he earned NASL Best XI honors in 2013.

Chris Bianchi covers the Colorado Rapids for MLSsoccer.com.