The Colorado Rapids, already ravaged by injury this season, lost the game and three more players in their 3-1 U.S. Open Cup loss to FC Dallas on Tuesday.
Dillon Powers, Axel Sjoberg and Shkelzen Gashi all had injuries significant enough to warrant being taken out of the match during the game. Sjoberg only recently returned from a hamstring injury, and Gashi was playing his first game since recovering from his own injury woes. Head coach Pablo Mastroeni was forced to use two of his three substitutions in the first half after first Sjoberg went down favoring his leg, and then Powers came out after being on the receiving end of a hard tackle.
Mastroeni used his third substitution at the beginning of the second half to take out Nana Adjei-Boateng, who was returning from a back injury himself. He subbed in Michael Azira, who scored the Rapids lone goal immediately after entering the game. Unfortunately, that left the Rapids out of substitutions, a fact that would later come back to haunt Mastroeni.
Late in the game, after taking a shot from distance, 2016’s leading scorer, Gashi, limped toward the bench. He plopped down for medical attention, and eventually left the field of play, leaving the Rapids with only 10 players to finish the game. Just a few minutes later, defender Kortne Ford received his second yellow card of the match and was ejected, creating a rare moment where the Rapids only had nine players on the field.
The extent of the injuries is unknown. Mastroeni trotted out an inexperienced lineup in the match, signaling that the U.S. Open Cup competition wasn’t a priority for the team. Taking that reasoning into account, it wouldn’t be surprising if the injuries weren’t significant and that the head coach was simply being cautious. That being said, if the players miss a significant amount of time, it could doom the Rapids’ already faltering MLS season.
Adding that to the fact that the Rapids have two games in the next week, this is a perilous point in the season. The Rapids sit in last place in the Western Conference, about halfway through the season. What little hope remains at salvaging this year revolves around maintaining a healthy team, something the Rapids have struggled to do this season. That’s not to say anyone’s at fault; the Rapids have fallen victim to unfortunate situations this year, but that doesn’t change the fact that they are running out of time.
Some positive news came out on Tuesday, however. Midfielder Mohammed Saeid, who has been one of the Rapids’ best and most consistent players this season, looks to be available for selection on Saturday after suffering what appeared at the time to be a significant injury against the LA Galaxy on June 21. MRIs revealed that he had a bone bruise and no significant damage in the knee in question.
As far as what the result means for the team, the Rapids have been eliminated from U.S. Open Cup contention at the hands of FC Dallas for the second season in a row. They can now focus solely on their MLS schedule now, and also can worry less about rotating players for rest, since they’ll have fewer games than those teams still in the Open Cup.
The Rapids next game is going to be an explosive one. They take on the Houston Dynamo on July 1 for a fireworks game at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park. The Rapids have been good at home this season, and they’ll need to secure points if they want a chance at qualifying for the playoffs.