COMMERCE CITY, Colo. – The Colorado Rapids are starting to rack up the frequent flier miles. But the team isn’t complaining.
The Rapids flew to Hawaii on Sunday for an eight-day trip that will include two preseason games against international competition, training sessions on grass fields and even a little time by the beach.
“[Hawaii] is probably my favorite destination outside of Dallas,” Rapids defender and proud Dallas native Drew Moor said last week. “You can’t go to Hawaii and not enjoy it. If I was a millionaire, I would own a home out there. But we’ll have to wait a couple years for that.”
First and foremost, though, Colorado’s trip to Hawaii is purely for business purposes. With less than three weeks until the regular season opener, the Rapids still have plenty of learning to do as they continue to work toward implementing a 4-3-3 scheme under new head coach Oscar Pareja.
“We have good competition, good weather and [we] get the team together all the time and keep preparing for the season that is around the corner,” Pareja said on Friday. “This is great timing for us.”
The Rapids will play two international matches in the Hawaiian Islands Invitational, the first of which will be against Yokohama FC on Thursday, a prospect that has Yokohama native and Colorado defender Kosuke Kimura excited to face his hometown club.
“It will be good to play against a home team,” said Kimura, who added that Yokohama boasts young and skilled players. “They’ve got some quality, it will be good to play against them and see how well we play against them.”
While this week’s matches are exhibitions – the Rapids will also scrimmage against Hawaii Pacific on Tuesday and play either Melbourne Victory (Australia) or Busan (South Korea) in the Hawaiian Islands Invitational on Saturday – Pareja hinted that he plans on giving his starters plenty of minutes despite the nearly three weeks that lie between the trip and the Rapids’ regular-season opener against Columbus on March 10.
“We’re going to try and put together the team that can compete and take the most of the experience and the opportunity,” Pareja said. “My responsibility is to start jumping the team up and give the guys that at the moment are playing more games [the chance] to start.”
And while the players will get various windows to explore and enjoy the warmer weather and sights of Hawaii, don’t expect Pareja to be sprawled out on Waikiki beach this week when there is plenty left to do.
“That is not on the to-do list,” he said.