COMMERCE CITY, Colo. – Whenever David Beckham, Landon Donovan, Robbie Keane and the LA Galaxy make their annual trek to Colorado, there’s always a big crowd along with an extra dose of excitement awaiting the star-studded group in the Rocky Mountains.
But for Rapids coach Oscar Pareja, all the focus is on grabbing three badly needed points tomorrow night against Beckham, Donovan, Keane and the Galaxy at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park (9 pm ET, watch LIVE online). With disappointing losses at Real Salt Lake on April 7 and at Seattle on April 14, the Rapids are now losers of two straight after winning three of their first four to start the year.
“We need character to bounce back from the results of the past two games,” Pareja said. “This game is going to reveal quite a bit of personality from our team.”
Pareja will be without star striker Conor Casey, who will miss out once again after contracting strep throat early in the week and working out just once this week, on Friday. Casey has been out since last July with a ruptured Achilles and the Rapids had hoped to have Casey back in the fold Saturday, but Colorado will have to find a way to avoid back-to-back-to-back shutouts without their all-time leading goalscorer once again.
Pareja is hopeful Casey will return next week.
“We have not scored in two games and that’s always a concern,” said Pareja, whose team generated just one shot on goal in their 1-0 loss to the Sounders last Saturday. “We’re going to get back to those moments where we can hurt them. With movement up top and being more aggressive, [we can] have a good day in front of the goal.”
Amarikwa away from team; Smith close to return
Reserve striker Quincy Amarikwa is dealing with an unspecified family matter in Nigeria and has not practiced with the Rapids this week, and will likely not be available for Saturday’s clash with the Galaxy.
“He’s having some family issues,” said Pareja, who also added Amarikwa left with the team’s permission.
Pareja also added Amarikwa is under “evaluation,” though Pareja wouldn’t elaborate what he is being evaluated for. Pareja confirmed Amarikwa is still on the Rapids’ active roster.
Meanwhile, midfielder Jamie Smith (ACL tear) is nearing his return to the pitch after a six-month absence. Head trainer Jaime Rojas said earlier this week that Smith is about two weeks away from a return, potentially making the veteran Scotsman available for a May 2nd clash against New England.
“He has worked extremely hard to get himself fit,” Pareja said. “Everybody is happy to have him.”
Chris Bianchi covers the Colorado Rapids for MLSsoccer.com.