COMMERCE CITY, Colo. – Just as the Colorado Rapids appeared to be fully healthy again, another injury popped up – a potentially important one.
Slick distributing midfielder Jose Mari will miss up to a month with a sprained left ankle, the Rapids said on Monday. The 26-year-old suffered the injury during Friday’s training session and was a late scratch for the Rapids’ 2-0 win over the Vancouver Whitecaps on Saturday night.
Rookie midfielder Jared Watts started in his place against Vancouver and is expected to handle the defensive midfield duties until he returns.
Jose Mari arrived from Spanish side Real Zaragoza in February and immediately assumed a spot in the starting lineup, scoring two memorable goals in a 2-1 win at Vancouver on April 5 (WATCH THE GOALS HERE).
While he’s chipped in three goals and an assist so far this season, Jose Mari’s role is more that of a ball-winning force out of the defensive midfield, and he’s been an important cog in helping the Rapids to a 7-5-4 start, placing them in a tie with Real Salt Lake for second in the Western Conference standings.
In his absence, the burden of shouldering the defensive midfield duties will fall on the 22-year-old Watts, whom head coach Pablo Mastroeni went out of his way to compliment following Saturday’s victory.
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“I think [right back Marvell Wynne] and [left back Chris Klute] did a really good job in the first half of putting them on their heels and creating imbalances in the midfield, releasing [the attack], and I think a part of that was the stability that Nicky [LaBrocca] and Wattsy [Watts] provided in the midfield, allowing guys to get forward,” Mastroeni said on Saturday.
“That was a focus this week," he continued. "I think they executed it to a 'T.'”
Chris Bianchi covers the Colorado Rapids for MLSsoccer.com.