COMMERCE CITY, Colo. – When Matt Pickens signaled to the sideline asking for a substitute in the 69th minute of Saturday night’s’ 4-1 loss to the San Jose Earthquakes, it ended the Rapids goalkeeper’s streak of consecutive MLS regular-season minutes played at 6,729, dating back to 2010.
Pickens suffered a left groin strain, one he said he wouldn’t have been able to play through even if the game had mattered for postseason play (the Rapids were eliminated from postseason contention last week).
The injury could potentially keep Pickens sidelined for the rest of the season, although no timeline has been set on the injury as of yet. But head coach Oscar Pareja said last Friday that he wouldn’t take risks with injured players with Colorado now having nothing to play for, possibly leaving 25-year-old youngster Steward Ceus in line to get his first significant minutes at the MLS level in the club’s final two games.
“It’s been a long time,” Ceus told MLSsoccer.com after making his MLS debut on Saturday night. “It’s an exciting thing to get into any professional game and the fact that I had the opportunity to do it [after] I’ve been working hard for four years, I feel like the hard work has paid off.”
Nearly four years into his MLS career after being selected by the Rapids in the third round of the 2009 SuperDraft, the hulking Ceus has so far been unable to take minutes away from the iron man Pickens, outside from participation in the US Open Cup and Colorado's CONCACAF Champions League campaign last season. Even Pickens acknowledged the importance of his understudy getting action should he have to miss more time.
“It’s good that I’ve been healthy and thank God for that, but I had to come out tonight,” Pickens said Saturday. “But honestly, it’s good for Stew to get some minutes. He needs to get some minutes in. Of course I want to play every game, but you can only go as far as your body wants you to.”
Pickens’ body is apparently telling the 30-year-old goalkeeper that it might be time to rest up for the rest of the season. The former Chicago Fire netminder has battled intermittent groin problems throughout the past two years, and he said that as soon as he kicked an early second-half goal kick on Saturday he knew something was wrong.
“It would take one 60-yard ball and that thing would go,” Pickens said. “Once you strain something, the next thing you’re going to do is strain it more once you put that under more pressure. I knew I had to go.”
Chris Bianchi covers the Colorado Rapids for MLSsoccer.com.