Kevin Doyle - Ireland - Injured calf
Action Images via Reuters / John Sibley Livepic

Rapids on Kevin Doyle's injury: "We anticipated it to be a lot worse"

COMMERCE CITY, Colo.—Despite having the weekend off from league play, the Colorado Rapids suffered a major setback last week: Kevin Doyle went down with a leg injury during the international break.

The Republic of Ireland international, a Rapids Designated Player, was stretchered off in the 22nd minute of Ireland’s 1-0 win over Switzerland last Friday, suffering a deep laceration to his calf which required surgery.

“I was lucky that there were two plastic surgeons on hand at the Mater hospital in Dublin and they have done a great job on my leg,” Doyle told the Irish Independent. “There were pieces of my sock in the wound. The doctors were pulling out threads and all sorts. It was not pretty, but I have to say it looks pretty good now considering.”

He’s expected to spend at least 3-to-5 weeks recovering from the injury, according to Rapids head coach Pablo Mastroeni.

“It looked pretty bad but we anticipated it to be a lot worse as far as the time he’d be missing,” Mastroeni told MLSsoccer.com on Tuesday. “We’re excited that it wasn’t broken, because that was the initial thought.”

It was the first of multiple injury setbacks for Colorado, who sent seven players on international duty last week. Rapids DP Shkelzen Gashi also experienced a minor calf injury which held him out of Albania’s 2-1 loss to Austria on Saturday. Gashi is expected to train this week in Colorado with the possibility of selection in their upcoming match against Toronto FC.

For Mastroeni, a longtime US international himself, international duty remains in high regard, despite the inherent risks.

“I’m the first guy that understands the importance of representing your country at any kind of event,” Mastroeni said. “I think it’s the most important thing in a footballer’s career. There’s never a thought from my side to take that away from somebody knowing how important it was for me.”

Regardless, not having the team’s top scorer from last season (five goals) available until at least May will be a tough pill to swallow.

“He’s been inspirational in a lot of ways with his mentality, work ethic and goal scoring,” Mastroeni said of Doyle. “It’s unfortunate to lose a player that’s meant so much to this group.”

Having initially anticipated the absences of Gashi and Doyle for Euro 2016 this summer, the Rapids manager explained that a contingency plan has been in place since the preseason.

“It’s something that we looked into from the beginning,” Mastroeni explained. “Depth in this league is really important. People underestimate it: If you have a good first 11 but don’t have players to step in when those guys aren’t there, you sell yourself short.”

In Kevin Doyle’s stead, Colorado has several younger players looking to compete at the No. 9 position including Luis Solignac, Conor Doyle and Dominique Badji.

“I think we are ready,” Solignac said of the competition. “It’s up to the coach to decide who’s going to play. But all of us are ready and willing to play.”

Said Conor Doyle: “[Solignac and Badji] are good players and they all do a good job so whoever gets put out there will do great. It’s just another week of training. There’s a possibility of playing, so there’s a focus on that.”

Each brings unique characteristics to the target forward position. Mastroeni praised Solignac for his ability to get into dangerous areas, Conor Doyle for his proven goal-scoring ability in MLS and Badji for his pace and athleticism. With a quandary of selection, his decision may simply come down to practice performance and the team’s game plan for TFC.

“It’s super competitive and everyone wants to play. Those are the underpinnings of what makes a really good team,” Mastroeni said. “That’s why we always talk about what it means to be a team: to prepare and be ready. We have to understand that there will be a lot of absences this year and that guys are willing to take the opportunity to step in and make a difference.”