COMMERCE CITY, Colo. — The Colorado Rapids scored eight of their 12 goals so far this season in the first three games. That means they have scored only four goals in their past eight.
The most recent misfire? A goal-less draw at home to Toronto FC on Sunday. And now the lack of goals is beginning to wear on the 2010 MLS Cup champs.
The obvious correlation is the availability of experienced proven goal-scorers. In those first three games, Omar Cummings and Caleb Folan scored four of the goals and Conor Casey played a significant role in creating most of them. Since then, Casey has been out injured for the most part while Cummings and Folan have only made sporadic appearances with their own injury problems.
“Forward’s a tough position to come in and go out, come in and go out,” midfielder Jeff Larentowicz told MLSsoccer.com after Sunday’s game. “Any good goal-scorer knows that, unless you are the best player in the world, you are not going to do it on your own. Often, forwards work together and when guys are switching every game, it’s a bit of a carousel up front and it’s tougher to develop that partnership.”
The most tried and true forward partnership for the Rapids is the one between Casey and Cummings. That duo scored 27 goals between them in 30 regular-season games last season. This year, they have played only an hour together.
Casey did make a return to the starting lineup on Sunday for the first time since April 3, playing 60 minutes. But neither Cummings nor Folan dressed for the game.
Folan did say after the game that he hopes to be fit for selection for this weekend’s game at home to Sporting Kansas City. Cummings is making good progress with his sprained ankle and told MLSsoccer.com that he is also hopeful for this weekend. However, he will be gone for most of June with the Jamaican national team at the Gold Cup. So the tried-and-true pairing that led the Rapids the last few seasons will have to wait, regardless.
In the Toronto game, head coach Gary Smith trotted out a strike pairing of Casey and Quincy Amarikwa. Andre Akpan then partnered with Amarikwa once Casey went off and, eventually, Sanna Nyassi was pushed from his usual wide midfielder spot into a forward role with Akpan.
Nyassi said he was enjoying the opportunity to play a more central advanced role.
“Sometimes, playing in the middle will give me better opportunities to score goals,” he told MLSsoccer.com. “I’m going to make sure I grab those [opportunities] because you never know when it’s going to come back. When everyone is healthy, it’s going to be tougher to have minutes.”
That is the silver lining of the merry-go-round that is the Rapids forward line these days: Younger players are getting crucial experience in pressure situations.
But the team would like some of its bigger names back for an extended run, and a better chance at recharging the offense.
“At the moment, it doesn’t feel great,” Larentowicz said of the forward injury difficulties. "But I know going forward this experience is going to be good for us."
The Rapids play Wednesday night against the New York Red Bulls with Casey, Amarikwa, Akpan and Nyassi again expected to shoulder the forward duties.