Jaime Castrillon, Colombia
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Rapids close in on acquisition of Colombian MF Castrillon

COMMERCE CITY, Colo. – The Colorado Rapids may be inching closer to signing Colombian midfielder Jaime Castrillón, but his acquisition won’t be the last in the new regime’s search for a midfielder that can make waves in MLS.

The Rapids revealed over the weekend that the 28-year-old Castrillón (above), who has 29 caps with the Colombian national team, arrived in Denver last Friday for negotiations with the club. Rapids head coach Oscar Pareja described Castrillón as a “typical No. 8,” which traditionally denotes a central midfield role.

“He is a very versatile player, and I think we need that kind of box to box midfielder for the team,” Pareja said after training on Monday morning.

Castrillón could line up this season in a three-strong midfield very likely to include veterans Pablo Mastroeni and Jeff Larentowicz. Pareja confirmed Monday that the most likely scenario for the Rapids in 2012 is playing a 4-3-3 formation or possibly a 4-2-1-3.

Another piece needed to complete the midfield puzzle continues to be the potential acquisition of a creative force, a typical No. 10, and Pareja hopes a new playmaker could arrive in the form of a Designated Player.

Tim Hinchey, Rapids President, recently told MLSsoccer.com that the Rapids are seriously looking at the possibility of bringing in a creative younger player at what could be DP status.

One place where there won't be changes is at captian, as Pareja awarded Mastroeni the armband for the 2012 season.

“He is a player that has a great deal of respect from his teammates,” Pareja said. “He is a great leader for this franchise.”

The head coach also said he would be looking at managing the team in a kind of “combined democracy,” eager to listen to suggestions but also adamant he will be laying down the law, a side of the former FC Dallas assistant coach that new defender Hunter Freeman noted after Monday’s practice.

“With Oscar coming in, you might not know what to expect,” Freeman said. “But he always worked hard as a player, as well as being very technical, and that is what he will expect from us. He expects a good mentality and everyone knows that. He made it clear in his talk today that he will always expect 100 percent.”

Pareja said he had also been in contact with striker Conor Casey, who is making good progress in his rehabilitation from an Achilles injury sustained last July against the Seattle Sounders. Casey could be back training by the end of preseason.

“I had a very good conversation with Conor and he knows that the team needs him,” Pareja said. “Conor has been around, he has won an MLS Cup and has played at a high level and I needed to know if he still wants it enough. For me, it has to be 100 percent or nothing and I think the fire is still there. I need him and I want him in my team.”

Coaching staff coming together

Pareja ran Monday’s practice with the help of assistant Paul Caffrey. Caffrey, who has worked alongside US U-17 coach Wilmer Cabrera, is expected to take up an assistant coaching role with the Rapids in the next few days. Cabrera is expected to be named deputy to Pareja.

The Rapids will also be keeping David Kramer (goalkeeping coach), John Ireland (fitness coach) and Jaime Rojas (head athletic trainer) as essential members of the technical staff for the upcoming season.