COMMERCE CITY, Colo. – On a roster loaded with veteran attackers, few would have expected newcomer Jaime Castrillón to lead the Colorado Rapids in goals heading into their 2012 season finale.
But that’s the unlikely scenario as the Rapids conclude their season on Saturday night at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park against the Houston Dynamo (9 pm ET, watch LIVE online).
With eight goals in 29 games, the 29-year-old Colombian midfielder, who was acquired from Independiente Medellín in January, finds himself two goals ahead of striker Omar Cummings for the Rapids’ golden boot.
“With Jaime, I have a lot of respect because the first year normally for a foreign player is very difficult,” Colorado head coach Oscar Pareja, a former international acquisition himself, told MLSsoccer.com this week. “Jaime has done a good job contributing to the team with the goals that he has, [and it] is remarkable knowing that he’s not a natural forward and it’s his first year.”
Although clearly possessing a nose for scoring goals, Castrillón has struggled at times with consistency in his first year in Commerce City, flashing a tendency to fall in and out of games.
But due to his goalscoring ability and a plethora of injuries at striker, there had been discussion of moving him up top from his current wide midfield role, Pareja said. This despite both Pareja and Castrillón saying this week that they preferred to keep the Colombian in the midfield, where he’s more comfortable.
“I’ve always played in the midfield, though I’ve always had the itch to move forward, [helping] lead to the goals,” Castrillón told MLSsoccer.com this week.
Meanwhile, temperatures in the 20s will make it a unusually chilly Fan Appreciation Night at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park as Castrillón and the Rapids look to close out a disappointing 2012 – which will see them miss the playoffs for the first time since 2009 – on a positive note.
“I think it’s important to come out for the fans who have come all season long to win with a win,” Castrillón said. “[My] motivation is this is a beautiful opportunity to come out and leave a strong impression on the fans.”
Chris Bianchi covers the Colorado Rapids for MLSsoccer.com.