The Daily Wave is a slice of opinion from a Burgundy Wave contributor, released every weekday morning.
It’s the same old story, or so it seems. The Rapids, and for that case just about every team in every league, have to deal with injuries to players all the time. But for the Rapids the last few years the injuries have come in bunches. Last year was especially difficult for our boys in burgundy, with losing Pablo Mastroeni at the beginning of the season, and also playing the majority of the first half of the season without Conor Casey, Omar Cummings, Jamie Smith, and Marvell Wynne. For all intents and purposes the Rapids played half of the season without half of their starting lineup.
It looks like things might be heading that way again for the Rapids. Martin Rivero and Jaime Castrillon have been out the entire season so far, and the Rapids biggest off-season acquisition, Edson Buddle, hasn’t been healthy enough to see the field yet either. And now in the last two weeks we have lost 2 more starters, Pablo for an undetermined amount of time and Matt Pickens for 3-4 months. So once again the Rapids are without half of their starting line-up.
Whether it has been freak accidents like Pickens’ broken arm and Rivero’s broken foot or possibly poor conditioning the Rapids have experienced their fair share of the injury bug over the last couple of seasons. I don’t like to blame poor showings on injuries, but with the number and quality of players that the Rapids have lost it isn’t inconceivable that the Rapids should and did struggle.
The biggest difference from last year to this year is the amount of young talent the Rapids have on the team to back up these injured players. Rookie Deshorn Brown has filled that center striker role very well while Buddle has been injured, having a number of shots in the first 3 games already and scoring his first goal in Saturday’s Rocky Mountain Cup match at Real Salt Lake.
While Rivero’s loss was devastating initially, the emergence of Kevin Harbottle as an attacking/ball control player has helped to lessen the blow. While Harbottle doesn’t directly fill Rivero’s shoes; when I watch his play on the field I can’t help but think of Rivero at the beginning of last year.
Pablo Mastroeni’s injury, while not quite as serious as Pickens, Rivero, and Castrillon’s is big as well. Losing him, even though we don’t know when he will be back, has allowed the Rapids to get away from playing two defensive/holding Midfielders. We saw in last Saturday’s game Dillon Powers and Kevin Harbottle play big roles in the Midfield. Seeing what Dillon Powers has brought to this team this year has been huge. The Rapids parlayed the number 11 draft pick that they received from the Chicago Fire in the Jeff Larentowicz trade to grab Powers. He has started all three games so far this season, and has really inserted himself into the Rapids line-up as a linking mid-fielder, which was really helpful when both Pablo and Hendry Thomas were playing.
The biggest loss for the Rapids this season is definitely Matt Pickens. The freak way that he broke his arm last week (on a set piece header) could have meant the end of the season for the Rapids, especially with how former back-up Steward Ceus looked in the season opener. However, rookie Clint Irwin stepped in and stepped up big time. In his MLS debut Irwin made decisions like a seasoned veteran and showed a voice that most rookies wouldn’t have. Right now everyone is high on Irwin, and rightfully so after Saturday’s game, but I am slightly hesitant to go all in here, simply because he is a rookie and we need to see him over a few games before we can say he is here to stay.
While most teams would have folded under the strain that the Rapids injuries have put them under, the Rapids youth have given them the ability to push forward. I am looking forward to seeing these young guys work together and hopefully bring the hope that Rapids fans have been looking for since they won the MLS Cup.