The Open Cup gets little attention in these opening rounds. But the Rapids believe this is an important tournament. Needless to say, there is plenty of room in the Rapids trophy cabinet for the Open Cup. But more importantly, the Open Cup is a testing ground for young talent and new players trying to make their mark.
Since the elimination of the reserve league, the opportunities for young players are limited. Teams typically resort to fielding their reserve teams against local college and PDL teams. Those games serve their purpose but ultimately fall short of reproducing the intensity of an MLS match.
For a player like rookie forward Andre Akpan, the Rapids first draft pick in the 2010 Superdraft, the Open Cup is an opportunity to prove his worth against MLS competition. Akpan, has yet to make his professional debut and the recent addition of striker Quincy Amarikwa might have made things a little more complicated.
Akpan has shown well over preseason, but is he ready?
Right now, Coach Smith believes Akpan is ready to take the next step and sees the Open Cup match as a good opportunity to see how much Akpan has developed.
“It’s a big test for him on Tuesday, he’ll almost definitely start. It’s his first Open Cup game, his first real competitive game against an MLS group, and we’ll see where he is.”
In the Rapids last reserve scrimmage against the University of Denver, Akpan put in 90 minutes and ended the match with the game winner, as well as the coach’s overall approval of his performance.
“I thought he was one of a couple of players to come out of the game with some real credit.”
Overall Coach Smith is happy with Akpan’s progress up to this point and wants him to continue progressing in the same manner.
“He’s showing some very nice signs, he’s a good footballer, he links in well with the other guys, he’s built some nice relationships, and I’d like to see that development continue.”
Joining Akpan are several players eager to use this opportunity to prove their quality. New attackers Claudio Lopez and Quincy Amarikwa should see some time. Outside mid Jamie Smith and defender Scott Palguta, both returning from injury, will use this opportunity to get some minutes under their belt. Defender Micheal Holody and rookie Ross LaBauex, like Akpan, will use this opportunity to show the coach they can play against MLS competition.
The Rapids face the Kansas City Wizards on Tuesday, April 13 at 6:30pm at Stanley H. Durwood Stadium and Recreational Field on the Campus of the University of Missouri-Kansas City. This a play in match to qualify for the Open Cup.