COMMERCE CITY, Colo. – Oscar Pareja’s lineups tend to be about as predictable as the mood of a five-year-old. But the one spot that’s usually etched in stone for the Colorado Rapids, goalkeeper, is now just as uncertain as every other position on the rest of the field.
With veteran Matt Pickens working his way back from a broken forearm and debuting in a friendly against Mexican side Santos Laguna last Friday, starter (for now) Clint Irwin is being seriously challenged for the Rapids’ starting ‘keeper role.
Now, Pareja declared, the battle between the posts is wide open.
“It is day-by-day,” Pareja said on Wednesday of the Rapids’ goalkeeper battle. “Today, it [was] Clint. The next week, we don’t know.”
Pareja said that he’s open to giving Irwin a rest in the coming weeks, but the most likely scenario will be getting Pickens needed minutes in the Rapids’ upcoming Reserve League games later this month, starting Sunday in Seattle, a day after the first team's date with the Sounders (Saturday, 4 pm ET, watch LIVE online).
“Any player that has been that far from the field needs competition," Pareja said. "One thing is being fit, another thing is being ‘fitness’ fit, another thing is being match fit. Sometimes, you cannot afford to wait for those three elements because you have the need or you have the urgency, but, if you can afford it, it’s better for the athlete and the player to complete the cycle, and be 100 percent, and Matt is very close.”
Despite playing at an elite level most of the season, Irwin has seen a slight dip in form in recent performances, perhaps at fault on the Revolution’s lone goal on Wednesday night where the 24-year-old froze on a set piece, potentially opening a gap for Pickens to reclaim the starting spot he lost when he got injured in March.
“It’s an everyday job and decision,” Pareja said. “We have a game [Saturday] in Seattle, we have a reserve game after on Sunday. Next week, we play against LA and then a reserve game [July 28]. So we have five games in a week-and-a-half. That’s a good thing for Matt and Clint. Now, for Clint and [other players], it’s every day, keep up with the job, because if somebody wants to take it, they will.
“We all need to win [our jobs]. Everybody. Starting with me.”
Chris Bianchi covers the Colorado Rapids for MLSsoccer.com.