The Colorado Rapids will be without 2016 MLS Defender of the Year nominee Axel Sjöberg for the immediate future. The Rapids announced on Tuesday that Sjöberg underwent successful surgery in Denver and will be reevaluated in six to eight weeks.
Sjöberg went down during extra time in the Rapids’ 1-0 loss to the New York Red Bulls on March 11. He executed a successful slide tackle in the Rapids’ penalty area and cleared the ball, but got his left leg caught under him in the process. His pain was obvious. He struggled to stand and needed assistance to get off the field.
The Rapids reacted to the injury swiftly by signing defender Mike da Fonte from the USL team Sacramento Republic FC. Rapids Sporting Director Pádraig Smith said on Tuesday that the Rapids had been keeping an eye on da Fonte since he impressed in the preseason last year.
“Mike impressed in our preseason meeting with Sacramento last year and we continued to track his progress. He provides competition and increased depth to our already strong defensive core,” Smith said.
Whether da Fonte sees regular playing time in Sjöberg’s absence is debatable. Defenders Mekeil Williams and Bobby Burling were the go-to defensive subs in 2016, so it’s likely that one of them will step in to start for Sjöberg. The Rapids also have homegrown rookie Kortne Ford waiting in the wings.
Whoever steps into the starting role, the Rapids defenders have more issues to address. They allowed seven scoring opportunities to the Red Bulls last weekend and didn’t look anywhere near their elite 2016 form. They get an opportunity to get back on the right track on Saturday against the new club Minnesota United FC.