Colorado's Shkelzen Gashi available for first time this season vs. Toronto

Shkelzen Gashi - Colorado Rapids - head in hands

COMMERCE CITY, Colo. – Embattled with injury, Designated Player forward Shkelzen Gashi has yet to make a competitive appearance for the Colorado Rapids in 2018.

That could all change soon.

The Swiss-Albanian has participated fully in team activities over the past week and is available for this weekend’s match against Toronto FC (3 pm ET | CTV - full TV & streaming info).

“I think he’s close,” Rapids head coach Anthony Hudson told this week. “Last week was his first full week and today was a good day for him. He just needs to keep getting more days like this under his belt. Right now, he’s available for selection but he’s been doing well.”

Gashi suffered a calf strain at the start of the Rapids’ preseason that has precluded him from all of Colorado’s matches this season, including the club’s Round of 16 Concacaf Champions League series with Toronto back in February. 

It's the latest injury during Gashi’s tenure in Colorado, following a 2017 campaign where he appeared in just 17 matches (12 starts), producing just two goals and an assist along the way. 

That decrease in production prompted Gashi to undertake an intense offseason training regimen. In an unfortunate turn of events, the injury bug struck the midfielder once more shortly after reporting to camp.

“It was really hard because I worked hard for three months in the offseason, I came back in really good shape and I said ‘This year is going to be fire. It’s going to be great,’” he said.

Despite the setback, Gashi said he maintained the same positive attitude throughout the recovery process. 

“It’s about your mentality and injuries can make you stronger,” he said. “At the end of it, you begin to enjoy the small things again like just being on the field.”

It’s yet to be seen where the Rapids DP will slot into Hudson’s preferred 3-5-2 formation, but Gashi expressed a willingness to play any of the front five positions. 

“To be honest, I just want to be on the field,” he said. “I think when I’m ready, I can help the team’s quality. In the last 20-30 minutes of games, we have to create more chances, so that’s what I’m here for.”

The conversation with Hudson regarding lineup decisions will occur later in the week, but it’s one Gashi is looking forward to. 

“We’ve had great conversations together,” he said. “I know what he wants and he knows me, so we are on the same page. A good Gashi, a healthy Gashi is good for the team and it helps everybody.”