COMMERCE CITY, Colo.- It might be a bit too late to get the Colorado Rapids into the postseason, but better late than never.
His immigration paperwork processed, defender Zat Knight returned to Colorado on Tuesday evening. The 34-year-old veteran of the English Premier League is not expected to play in Colorado’s next match against the Seattle Sounders on Sunday (3 pm ET, UniMas), but he could be ready in time for the Rapids’ third-to-last match of the year at Chivas USA on October 11.
“We’ll assess where he’s at, we’ll sit down with him and see where he’s at physically,” Mastroeni told reporters of Knight on Tuesday.
The 34-year-old Knight trained with the Rapids briefly last month, but he was forced to return to England to complete immigration paperwork. With his arrival this week, it paves the way for the Bolton, Aston Villa and Fulham veteran to debut along the Colorado back line later this month. But without a guaranteed contract for next year, Knight will have to prove his worth over the final few games of the season, potentially leading to an expedited debut date for the twice-capped English international.
“We’ll hopefully get him involved somehow in the game against [Chivas USA],” Mastroeni said, then adding about the possibility of Knight debuting against Seattle this weekend: “If he says to me, ‘Listen, I’ve been training really well, I’ve been really going at it,’ [then it might be a possibility]. But I don’t want to make a sub in the first half, and most importantly, I don’t want to put a player out there that might get injured.”
Knight’s services are sorely needed for a depleted Rapids back line that has been hammered by injuries to center backs Drew Moor (knee, out for the season) and Shane O’Neill (knee, recently returned to action in September). That inconsistent back line has contributed to the Rapids’ 10-game winless skid and to keeping Colorado well outside of the Western Conference playoff picture with just four games remaining.
With the Rapids eight points behind the fifth-placed Vancouver Whitecaps and only those four matches to go, it might be too late for Knight’s impact to resurrect the season, but the Englishman’s experience and leadership will be welcomed in the year’s final matches.
“His leadership when he was here for five days was tremendous, not even having to speak a whole lot. Just his presence was great for the group,” Mastroeni said of Knight. “I think he brings a lot to the team. I’m really excited to see how he helps us moving forward.”
Chris Bianchi covers the Colorado Rapids for MLSsoccer.com.