COMMERCE CITY, Colo. – You name it, and it’s gone wrong for the Colorado Rapids over the past two months.
Injuries, bad breaks and now poorly timed international spells are making first-year head coach Pablo Mastroeni’s job of selecting a lineup an arduous task.
Help is on the way, but probably not in time for Saturday’s encounter against the Portland Timbers at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park (9 pm ET; MLS LIVE). The Rapids are finalizing a deal to acquire former Bolton Wanderers defender Zat Knight and defender Shane O’Neill (knee) is close to a return from an MCL sprain, but neither will play against Portland.
Immigration paperwork has slowed the debut of Knight, and O’Neill said this week he’s unsure about his availability.
“I’m obviously hoping to be fit for Saturday, but I’m not sure if that’s realistic,” O’Neill said. “Maybe next week I could be good to go.”
Mastroeni, meanwhile, will have noticeably slimmer pickings up front as well. Striker Edson Buddle is battling a hamstring injury, and fellow striker Deshorn Brown just returned from international duty with Jamaica, while Gabriel Torres is away with Panama.
So Mastroeni’s choices are to start Brown after he played most of Jamaica’s 3-1 loss to Canada in Toronto on Tuesday, re-calling striker Danny Mwanga from his loan spell with the New York Cosmos or slotting one of his healthy midfielders up top.
Regardless, for the free-falling Rapids, who are seven points behind the Vancouver Whitecaps for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference, the focus remains on stopping the skid by any and all means possible.
“Losing seven games on the spin isn’t what you had in mind when you say it’s a process. But that’s life,” Mastroeni said. “For me, the most important thing is not what happens to you, but how you deal with it. And every game, I take something from the game, and like the players, I look at how I need to improve as a coach and use every defeat as a learning experience.”