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Rapids play first pre-season game vs. Ventura County Fusion

In a closed-door scrimmage the two sides finished with a draw, 1-1.

Peguy Ngatcha, the Rapids 4th round SuperDraft pick, at a pre-season friendly.
Ventura County Fusion, via twitter.

We have a Rapids soccer match to report! Kind of!

The Colorado Rapids played their first pre-seaon match of the 2017 season, against PDL side Ventura County Fusion on Saturday. In what was certainly meant to be a low-key scrimmage, the two sides drew 1-1. Diego Casillas scored for Ventura, while Dominique Badji recorded the Rapids goal. Both came late in the second half. The game was played at Cal Lutheran University in Thousand Oaks.

We can’t tell you much beyond the lineups, since the game was not streamed.

Here were the first and second half lineups, per the Rapids twitter account. First half...

And the second half...

It looks like the Rapids came out in a 4-3-3 both halves. That could be due to the absence of Micheal Azira and Nana Adjei-Boateng. Azira normally partners alongside Sam Cronin at defensive midfielder, but with neither Azira nor Adjei-Boateng available, it may have been best to let Cronin play as a lone shield for the backline and see how things work out. Azira is getting some time off after the African Cup of Nations and the Uganda National team training camp that preceded it. Adjei-Boateng is due to join the team soon, pending visa paperwork. It could also be that Rapids manager Pablo Mastroeni is tinkering with having the team line up in a 4-3-3 this year to provide more in the attack. It could just be the same old 4-2-3-1, just tweeted in a simplified format. I wouldn’t read too much into it, even if I just wrote a whole paragraph about it.

The Rapids used the match as an opportunity to check out trialist Jun Marques Davidson, who started the second half for Colorado in the midfield. The 33 year-old defensive midfielder, originally from Japan, was reported by the Denver Post to be in camp with the team in Boulder last week. Davidson faces long odds at making the roster for Colorado, as the team has 28 players in camp. Although the maximum number of spots on an MLS roster is 28, the Rapids have begun the season with between 23 and 26 players in recent years.

The game was the first one in a Rapids jersey for Colorado’s four 2017 MLS SuperDraft picks; Sam Hamilton, Liam Callahan, Jaime Siaj, and Peguy Ngatcha. Siaj was the only outfield player to play all 90 minutes, switching from the midfield to forward in the second half, which may show that the team likes him. For background on all four draft picks, see our article on the 2017 SuperDraft here.

Rapids Homegrown players Ricardo Perez and Kortne Ford also hit the field in Ventura. As Homegrown signings, both have guaranteed contracts for the 2017 season. A highly touted college center back, Ford has a good chance at making the senior club. Perez may be destined for a year honing his skills in Charlotte with the USL Independence, or might impress enough to stick with the big club. He’s surely being watched closely by the coaching staff during these pre-season matches.

A number of Rapids players didn’t hit the pitch Saturday. In addition to the aforementioned Azira and Adjei-Boateng, Tim Howard and Dillon Serna did not play, presumably since they are still rehabbing from injury. New signing Alan Gordon did not feature in the match, nor did third-string goalkeeper John Berner. Veteran left back Marc Burch and DP forward Shkelzen Gashi did not play either.

After making two playoff starts as an attacking midfielder, Kevin Doyle played Saturday at his usual role of center forward. Again, this early and with barely any information on the game coming out of the Rapids media team, it’s hard to make anything of it. Maybe Doyle is our striker, maybe they’ll try him again as a number 10.

The Rapids did not publicize or announce the match. The opponent wasn’t posted on the team’s website until Friday, and a match time was never announced. There was also no live stream, and as of yet, no video or highlights to show. There weren’t even pictures of in-game action posted on social media. Clearly the Rapids wanted to let this be a low pressure match, and not disappoint or overexcite the fan base about a game meant mostly to shake off the rust. Still, if the Rapids hope to build excitement for the coming season through hyping us up, well, CIA-levels of secrecy around their first pre-season match sure is a strange way to do it.

The Rapids play again Wednesday in California, before returning home to Commerce City next week. After that, they head down to Arizona to play in the Desert Diamond Cup, playing their first match Saturday, February 18 at 1pm against the New England Revolution. The regular season opens in Colorado on March 4.