COMMERCE CITY, Colo. – When Colorado Rapids center back Diego Calderón’s right knee crashed into the post during a 1-0 loss to the LA Galaxy on March 23, he saved a goal but also created a major hole in head coach Oscar Pareja’s lineup in the process, a hole Colorado are still trying to fill.
The Ecuadorian international and one of the Rapids’ key offseason pickups is out for the next four to five months with ligament damage to the knee, and Colorado are trying to figure out how they will move on without him.
Homegrown center back Shane O’Neill impressed in his first career MLS start and was showered with praise by Pareja postgame. But Saturday's match against RSL (7:30 pm ET, NBCSN, Live chat on MLSsoccer.com) could determine whether the 19-year-old receives the majority of the opportunities in Calderón’s absence. When Drew Moor returns from suspension next week, Pareja could also opt to shift right back Marvell Wynne inside with youngster Chris Klute taking over at right back.
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“Now, looking in the big picture, it’s a day-by-day thing," Pareja said. "Soccer for me is based on how good you are today. If [O’Neill and Klute] keep exciting us and doing the job, then they will have a chance to play."
With Calderón out long-term, the Rapids are also considering acquiring someone outside the organization, technical director Paul Bravo said on Wednesday.
“We have some options that we’re looking at. We’re looking within the league as well,” Bravo said. “People know our situation, so that becomes more challenging, because they can hold you ransom.”
Calderón could be out for most of the season, but the Rapids have an additional concern in central defense. O’Neill is likely join the US Under-20 national team for the FIFA U-20 World Cup in July, which would leave Colorado even thinner at center back and in need of reinforcements.
The Rapids want to make a move to bolster their depth but the team is nudged up against the salary cap, making a potential move difficult and possibly forcing the team to try and skirt by on internal options.
“We’re looking at it saying, ‘We’re challenged,'" said Bravo. "Do we go find somebody short term and use some of the assets that we’ve been able to hang onto? Do we use a short-term mentality for this particular situation? Or do we look for someone who might be able to be an asset long term for the club? That’s kind of where we’re going back and forth."