With only nine days remaining until the Colorado Rapids’ March 2 season opener against FC Dallas, final preparations and final decisions are looming for Oscar Pareja’s squad.
The Rapids arrived in Ventura, Calif., on Tuesday and are spending the week focusing on formation work and setting the team’s lineup for the opener.
“We want to keep working hard with the group and hope that we can have one game with the reserves and another with the group that’s close to the one that we’ll have next week [in the season opener],” Pareja told MLSsoccer.com by phone from Southern California.
The Rapids will prepare for two games on Friday night in Santa Barbara, the first a reserve game against UCSB and the finale a matchup against the defending champion LA Galaxy. Pareja said that Friday’s Galaxy game will likely represent something close to his expected opening day lineup, as the team has now shifted its focus in the final full week of preseason training.
“We’re giving a bit more importance to the scheme and the formation that we’ll have,” Pareja said. “We have already done the physical and conditioning part, but now we are adding the complete team. We’re continuing to evaluate players on an individual basis as well.”
Thirty-two players made the trip from Colorado, including two new trialists, 21-year-old Colombian forward Cortes Armero and 19-year-old attacking midfielder Matthew Dunn.
It appears that left back Kory Kindle – the team’s second-round pick in the 2012 SuperDraft – will be signed to a contract, and Clint Irwin will win the third-string goalkeeper job, although the team has not yet made an official announcement.
On Wednesday, Edson Buddle took part in possession drills as he continues to recover from loose cartilage buildup in his right knee. Goalkeeper Matt Pickens is battling a knee injury and worked off to the side, while Kindle, who’s been fighting through a nagging groin injury, also did work on his own on Wednesday. Defender Davy Armstrong, who had been battling back spasms and missed several weeks of training, made the trip and is training fully.
Chris Bianchi covers the Colorado Rapids for MLSsoccer.com.