Perhaps the Colorado Rapids' most important match of the season is this weekend: Saturday’s clash against Real Salt Lake. Unfortunately, the Rapids will be without one of their most important midfield cogs: Jeff Larentowicz.
The holding midfielder’s 92nd-minute yellow card in the Rapids’ 2-1 loss to Toronto FC on Wednesday means he will be suspended due to yellow-card accumulation. But the loss of the steady veteran could open the door for a youngster looking to prove himself.
Recent homegrown signing Shane O’Neill is “for sure” an option to replace Larentowicz in the holding midfield role, according to head coach Oscar Pareja, despite the fact that the 18-year-old native of Boulder, Colo., signed his first professional contract just last month.
“[Shane] is s a kid who’s growing within the group,” Pareja said. “He’s growing with the training and playing with the reserves, and he’s making a lot of progress and he’s one of the options.”
O’Neill made the bench for the first time as a pro in last Saturday’s 2-1 loss to FC Dallas, but didn’t make an appearance.
Pickens not put out by All-Star snub
Rapids goalkeeper Matt Pickens is currently leading MLS in saves, and regularly finds himself on highlight reels for his frequent acrobatic stops. But on Sunday, when the MLS released its 18-man game-day roster for the 2012 AT&T MLS All-Star Game, the 30-year-old veteran’s name wasn’t on the list.
Not that it mattered to Pickens.
“Really, I don’t really care,” Pickens told MLSsoccer.com. “I’m just trying to work on what we’ve got going here. This is the most important thing that I’m worried about. We’re in a bit of a danger zone. My sole purpose on this team is to get this thing set right and get points.”
In an inconsistent transitional season under a new head coach, Pickens has been a steady force between the posts for Colorado, and his vocal presence has helped organize the defense. However, Pickens was passed over by Chivas USA’s Dan Kennedy and Sporting Kansas City’s Jimmy Nielsen for the two All-Star goalkeeper slots.
“I think he has done a great job for us this year,” Pareja told MLSsoccer.com. “For me, it would’ve been nice to see him in the All-Star game. … It may not be good news when the goalkeeper is in the All-Star game, [but] I’m proud. I think he’s been outstanding all year and he’s provided a lot of leadership.”
Mastroeni headed to DL
Captain Pablo Mastroeni (headaches) was placed on the six-game disabled list Monday, meaning the midfielder won’t be eligible to play until late August.
“We had to put him there because it looks like the recovery is not happening at the moment, so we need space on the roster in order to move forward with the team,” Pareja said. “We’re at a moment where the boys need help. As much as we love him and need him here, we have to move on if it looks like he might not be a part of the roster.”
Mastroeni hasn’t played since March 18 due to post-concussion symptoms.
Chris Bianchi covers the Colorado Rapids for MLSsoccer.com.