COMMERCE CITY, Colo. — Even if Pablo Mastroeni recovers in time from an injured knee sustained in Wednesday night’s game against Sporting Kansas City, the Colorado captain will be unavailable for the Rapids’ game against the visiting Vancouver Whitecaps on Saturday (9 pm ET, watch LIVE online).
Mastroeni picked up a yellow card for the first-half challenge on Roger Espinoza that led to the injury, meaning he has accumulated enough cautions for a one-game suspension. It means a big change to an already strapped Rapids midfield for the Vancouver match.
Wide midfielders Jamie Smith and Brian Mullan are by no means certain starters for the weekend. Smith (calf) and Mullan (back) were left behind in Colorado and did not make the trip to Kansas City so as to try and recover better from those injuries.
To compensate for their absences, head coach Gary Smith played Wells Thompson and Ross LaBauex at Livestrong Sporting Park. Both those players look likely to play a major role Saturday, and Joseph Nane is the most likely replacement for Mastroeni in the middle.
The young Cameroonian midfielder came on after half an hour against Sporting Kansas City when Mastroeni was forced to leave the field with the injury. Filling in for the club captain has been a regular task for Nane, who joined the Rapids this season from Toronto. Nane has made four appearances this season with three of those being occasions when the 24-year-old has had to directly play Mastroeni’s role.
“Every time I sit on the bench I look at Pablo and Jeff [Larentowicz] and watch the way they play, so it’s easier for me when I get in,” Nane said after Wednesday’s game. “I already know what they have been doing and I just try to replicate that.”
Smith was quick to praise all the squad players involved in Wednesday’s game.
“The players that stepped in did a tremendous job,” the coach said. “Joseph sometimes looked a bit leggy but he did well.”
After the intensity of the midweek game, the Rapids will be eager to secure three points at home against a struggling Vancouver team. They have not won at home since April 3, when a Caleb Folan brace helped them to a 4-1 victory over D.C. United. The encouraging display against Sporting KC gives the team a little more confidence ahead of the weekend.
“I felt like we could have nicked it,” Nane said, “but we’ll take the point and go from there.”