COMMERCE CITY, Colo. – The Colorado Rapids’ leading goalscorer from 2012 is on the verge of returning to action after the longest injury layoff of his career.
Colombian midfielder Jaime Castrillón, who led Colorado with eight goals in his first season with the club, has resumed full training and is expected to get his first game action in a reserves game on Saturday, potentially giving his team another dynamic threat to the Rapids midfield.
“Jaime is doing well,” head coach Oscar Pareja said Tuesday. "He’s in full training mode and I’m expecting him to get playing time [on Saturday] and see what comes after."
Castrillón, 30, suffered a mysterious right knee injury towards the end of last season that was discovered in season-ending medicals. The team labeled the injury as a “condition” in the knee, without going into further specifics, but the injury required a February surgery that has kept him on the sidelines ever since.
But after returning to full practice in the last few weeks, Castrillón has slowly worked his way back into game shape, and now, the attacking midfielder is ready to compete for a spot in Pareja’s crowded midfield.
“I’m ready,” Castrillón told MLSsoccer.com on Tuesday. “I’m ready for games and competitions and I hope it’s soon. I’m working to get better everyday.”
Castrillón is expected to challenge Atiba Harris, Martín Rivero, Danny Mwanga, Kevin Harbottle and Dillon Powers for one of the three starting spots underneath the striker in Pareja’s 4-2-3-1 formation that’s been preferred of late.
“We have people healthy and they’re competing with each other for the position and now our mentality is different,” Pareja said. “All of this makes us a stronger team for sure. That requires a lot of professionalism from [the players], and calmness from us as well.”
Castrillón was a big hit during his first season at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park, racking up eight goals and four assists while starting 29 games in his first season after arriving from Colombia’s Independiente Medellín.
In fact, Castrillón was such a hit, he attracted offseason attention from an unspecified Colombian team during the offseason, but ultimately the former Colombian national teamer chose to stay in Denver, and now, he’s finally ready to return to the field.
“I’ve done all the recuperation with Jaime [Rojas, team trainer] and it’s gone well,” Castrillón said. “I’m hoping for the opportunity to play as soon as possible, because the truth is it’s been a long time since I’ve played, and it’s been tough being away from the fields for so long.”
Chris Bianchi covers the Colorado Rapids for MLSsoccer.com.