Colorado Rapids Have Become Injury Bug United. How Did This Happen? What Can Fix It?

Mar 24, 2023 - 8:02 PM
Jack Price warming up prior to rupturing his Achilles tendon on Saturday March 18 against Minnesota United. | John. A Babiak

Last season the Rapids effectively had three season-ending injuries before the Ides of March had gone. Aboubacar Keita and Braian Galván tore their ACLs in preseason. Oliver Larraz had surgery for a fractured tibia mid-March.

Jack Price’s calf injury and later punctured lung limited him to 17 league appearances in 2022. On August 13, Dantouma “Yaya” Toure tore his ACL against Columbus Crew. That match was one of the final games played on the original pitch at DICK’s Sporting Goods Park which was replaced before the final home game of the year. It had been there since 2007.

A Timeline of All the Injuries This Season

In 2023, preseason stints in Santiago de Querétaro and Orlando went reasonably well. Jonathan Lewis was dealing with a few different small knocks. The team was otherwise healthy with even Keita and Galván rejoining first team activities around a year after their ACL injuries.

Then that last week of preseason hit. Price picked up a back injury. Diego Rubio had a loose body in his knee which required arthroscopic surgery, that had him miss the first three games of the season.

Returning to Colorado has seen the Rapids become Injury Bug United. Keita is back and available but impressive rookie center back Moïse Bombito sustained an MCL injury on March 7. Lalas Abubakar suffered hamstring injury at San Jose but recovered to play the next game.

Then last week happened.

Alex Gersbach and Steven Beitashour both picked up hamstring injuries. Galván was questionable with a groin injury. As if he needed another setback in regaining his fitness at altitude.

Marko Ilić, who finally had his visa taken care of, had a hip injury. Keegan Rosenberry was a late scratch for Saturday’s game. A third hamstring injury to a fullback.

The cherry on the top of this ice pack and Kinesiology tape sundae of doom: Price ruptured his Achilles tendon, seven minutes into a substitute appearance. He’s out for the season. He’s at least Colorado’s second most important player.

What Players, Coaches, and Sources Have Said

Robin Fraser: “We got through most of preseason feeling pretty good. Over the last three or four weeks more injuries keep popping up. It’s disappointing and disruptive. It’s no excuse. All of a sudden these things have popped up in the last couple of weeks. It’s shocking. This is the way this season’s going so far.”

Cole Bassett: “You never want to see injuries. I don’t know what it is. The fields have not been very good. I’m not using that as an excuse. We’ve been training on bad fields and that field tonight was not very good either. But both teams have to play on it tonight. It’s not an excuse of why we lost. Guys are getting injured a lot and you do wonder why.”

As previously reported by Burgundy Wave, the club could do an internal feasibility study on the facilities and practice fields. This could lead to upgrades in infrastructure, procedures, and technology to help Field 20, the stadium pitch, etc. weather winter better and not be in preseason form the first month of the season.

About the Playing Surfaces

The fact that last year the Rapids were still playing on the same grass from when DSG opened in kind of embarrassing. Every season, multiple teams replace playing surfaces. Allianz Field got an upgrade in just its fourth season last year. Last August, Toure tore his ACL on a pitch that was installed before his second birthday.

As Bassett said, the new field was not good last Saturday. Price might have been gotten by the turf monster. Darren Yapi nearly slipped at the touchline during the match. The skid in the grass could be seen postgame from the press box. The practice field the club’s been using has not been great either. They’ve been using alternative field to save their usual Field 20 so it can last the whole season.

A lot of work is going into making the new playing surface happy and healthy. This was one of the coldest winters in club history. Burgundy Wave doesn’t know everything about lawn maintenance and horticulture, but frozen ground and lots of snow does not help.

It’s great that the club finally replaced the stadium pitch. A lot of innovation has occurred since 2007. Other MLS teams in similar or worse climates have more advanced facilities. The club looking into what they could do differently and better playing surface wise is a great first step.

The weather affecting the pitches the last few weeks seems like the most plausible answer. Pushing to build fitness in non-deal weather on non-deal playing surfaces comes with risk. Just my $0.02 GAM.

About the Medical Staff

There’s been some commentary made about all these injuries happening when the Rapids now have a health themed shirt sponsor. I saw one the other day in response to the injury report that joked with all the players listed as question to play, the medical staff must be questionable.

Did the club do something last preseason that caused two ACL tears in a short span? Has there been something these past two weeks as the team pushes to gain fitness at altitude on bad fields? Those are fair questions.

Medical staff aren’t really in control of load management. Gabriel Heinze at Atlanta Untied brought in staff that shared his rigorous ideology, which included denying water breaks. And anyone who stayed on from before had to get in line to stay around.

Fraser doesn’t have a ‘double sessions everyday, you can rest when you retire’ philosophy. Judge the medical staff based on how quickly the players come back and how existing injuries are managed going forward.

All of Price’s injuries (calf, rib, back, Achilles in that order) are unrelated. None of the other injuries are nagging or repeats from the past for these players. Soccer players injure their hamstrings. Maybe they’ve just had bad luck to have several all in one week.

Sam Nicholson’s back was was repeated issue in 2018 and 2019. He’s been healthy since returning to the club last summer. If he had reinjured his back by now, that would be a warning sign for me, medical staff wise.

Their value will be in getting team healthy over the next two weeks and keeping them healthy with Mother Nature letting up.

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