COMMERCE CITY, Colo. – It’s been a long time coming for Rapids midfielder Joseph Nane.
The third-year player spent the first 20 games of the Colorado Rapids’ regular-season schedule on the bench, waiting for an opportunity to prove his worth to first-year head coach Oscar Pareja. Nane didn’t play a single minute of regular-season action until late last month, but he’s made the most of his chance since, starting three straight games. He capped his rise by scoring the lone goal in the Rapids’ 1-0 win over Real Salt Lake last Saturday.
And if Pareja’s comments this week are of any indication, Nane could be a fixture in the Rapids’ starting 11 for the foreseeable future.
“Nane has given us balance [at defensive midfield],” Pareja said on Tuesday. “We were trying to get that balance out of Martín [Rivero] or Jaime [Castrillón] or Jamie [Smith], but the balance he is bringing at the moment is more natural, because he knows the position, and I think he’s helping Jeff [Larentowicz] a lot in that situation.
"Obviously he needs some more games in order to be match-fit for the 90 minutes, but I’m very happy with the production he’s bringing to the team.”
The Rapids have been searching for a replacement for a more defensive-minded midfielder since Pablo Mastroeni went down with concussion-related headaches in March. After a season’s worth of experimenting, Nane, a natural holding midfielder who can also move forward, appears to be Pareja’s answer.
But it’s not just his on-field performance that’s made Cameroon native stand out in his first three games. Nane’s not-so-quiet confidence is obvious, as shown by his response after learning that he would start his first game of the season July 21 against Real Salt Lake.
“It’s about effing time. That was my first reaction,” the Old Dominion product said of his first thoughts. “Everybody just turned around and was like, ‘Oh, did you just say that?’ But that’s how I felt. It was no pressure, I just felt like I was going to do well, so I just stepped in and did my job.”
Nane, who played 11 games as a rookie with Toronto FC in 2010 before being acquired by the Rapids in November of that year for a third-round draft pick, is also helping to alleviate the workload on fellow holding midfielder Larentowicz, and the veteran is happy to have the assertive 25-year-old working alongside him.
“Jo’s been ready to play for a while now, and he’s getting his chance,” Larentowicz told MLSsoccer.com on Tuesday. “It’s a fresh body, fresh mind. For me, it takes a bit of the workload off. I think more importantly it gets another guy forward in the box. It’s a good thing for us.”
Chris Bianchi covers the Colorado Rapids for MLSsoccer.com.