COMMERCE CITY, Colo. – First Pablo Mastroeni, and now Jamie Smith.
The Colorado Rapids are facing a growing injury crisis ahead of the opening leg of their Eastern Conference Semifinal series against Sporting Kansas City on Sunday (7:30 pm ET, Fox Soccer), as both veteran midfielders will not suit up in the club’s all-important home match at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park.
The latest blow to the team is a torn right ACL for Smith, who was stretchered off the field during the Rapids’ 1-0 wild card win over the Columbus Crew on Thursday night. Smith, who appeared in 20 regular games this year for the Rapids but also battled nagging injuries that kept him out much of July and August, is expected to miss six months of action with the injury.
Smith went down in the 72nd minute near midfield while avoiding a tackle from the Crew's Eddie Gaven, but it appeared Smith suffered the injury without contact.
Smith will undergo surgery on his knee on Tuesday morning by Rapids team doctor Wayne Gersoff in Denver.
Mastroeni, meanwhile, is still a question mark after sustaining a concussion during a match on Oct. 14. He skipped the Columbus match while working his way back to health, but he’s unlikely to be fit enough to return on Sunday.
“Having spoken to the medical staff this morning, he’s again going to be a real doubt for the Sunday game,” head coach Gary Smith. “Unfortunately he seems to be having some ongoing repercussion, and I hope that in a two-game series, the second leg might be more realistic. It’s not a nice injury, and one that we all have to be mindful of.”
With Jamie Smith and Mastroeni out, the Rapids will likely turn to either Joseph Nane or Wells Thompson to pair with Jeff Larentowicz in the central midfield, while Brian Mullan and Sanna Nyassi man the wings.
Both Nane and Thompson have played the pinch-hit role before, but Thompson is a far more offensive presence than Nane, which could decide who the Rapids lean on against the fast-paced style of Sporting KC.
“We’re running out of bodies in there, that’s for sure,” Gary Smith said. “To try and keep the team as aggressive and experienced as possible might mean popping bodies into areas that they’re not necessarily comfortable or happy with.
“Kansas City, in many ways, are a different prospect,” he added. “They have different players and slightly different styles and formats with how they play, so there are some choices to make.”
The Rapids and Sporting Kansas City played to 1-1 draws in their two matches during the regular season.
“I think we wanna get out and go [against SKC],” Thompson said. “They’ve been playing really well lately, but while we’re at home we wanna get out and get on top, especially in the first leg of the series.
LaBauex’s Postseason Debut
One of the other midfield options for the Rapids is second-year youngster Ross LaBauex, who made his playoff debut when he came on for Jamie Smith in the 74th minute.
““I didn’t know what to expect of it but he called my name and you have to be ready, you have to perform,” LaBauex told MLssoccer.com. “I thought I did alright. Just trying to do what I can and maybe Gary will decide to start me Sunday but, if not, you’ve got to be ready off the bench too.”