COMMERCE CITY, Colo. – Striker Omar Cummings sat off to the side after the Colorado Rapids’ Tuesday practice at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park, squinting at the midday sun and periodically adjusting his heavily taped right ankle. But he also sported his trademark, ear-to-ear smile when talking about the upcoming season.
Looking to shake off an inconsistent 2011 campaign plagued by injuries, Cummings told MLSsoccer.com there’s only one big key to getting back to his 2010 elite form in 2012.
“When you’re not 100 percent, it takes a toll on you physically and mentally,” said Cummings, whose team-leading 14 goals in 2010 helped the Rapids to their first-ever MLS Cup. “You’re not able to practice the way you want to, and everything just breaks down from there.”
Colorado's hopes for a 2012 charge to the top of the Western Conference standings could hinge on the health of their 29-year-old Jamaican striker, who missed eight of the Rapids’ 34 games last season with a variety of injuries and never fully got on track, scoring just three MLS goals. But after spending a full offseason resting back home in Jamaica, Cummings hopes the worst of his injuries are behind him, though he’s not fully healthy quite yet.
“I wouldn’t say 100 percent just yet; I picked up a knock on my right ankle,” said Cummings, who got hurt in the opening game of the Hawaiian Invitational Tournament two weeks ago but is expected to start against Columbus in Saturday’s season opener (6 pm ET, MLS Live). “It’s just a little bit sore, but hopefully, with maintenance, it’ll be OK.”
Cummings’ ankle and leg injuries in 2011 hampered his usual blistering pace, a trait that blended with fellow striker Conor Casey’s brute strength and aerial ability in 2010. Casey and Cummings combined for 27 goals that season, and with new head coach Oscar Pareja implementing a more attack-oriented 4-3-3 formation this year, Cummings can expect to see plenty of action once again.
“Omar is gelling up with the new players,” Pareja said of Cummings, who earned his 27th career cap for Jamaica in a Feb. 29 friendly against New Zealand. “The quality and the talent that Omar has is there, what we’re trying to do is get more combinations with midfielders and get on the same page on the field.”