Things clearly did not go the way we all wanted midweek when Toronto FC (5-12-12) travelled down to Mexico to play Pumas. The team looked to be tired and as soon as they fell behind early they seemed to lose all interest in trying to fight back. There was no fight back and in the end they were completely outclassed and suffered a 4-0 defeat which knocked them into third place in their Champions League group. Now they return to MLS action to play host to the Colorado Rapids in an afternoon match. The tricky part of this match is that it comes only a few days before Toronto faces what is a must win game in the CCL if they want to advance.
Much like Toronto, the Rapids (10-8-11) are coming off a fairly tough outing midweek against a Mexican club. For the Rapids it was a 4-1 defeat at the hands of Santos Laguna that really damaged their hopes of advancing out of their CCL group. That means that for Colorado, sitting 5th in the west, this league game is an important one. They will be looking to find a way to bounce back and end their 3 game losing streak in the league before their playoff hopes are further damaged. Right now Colorado find themselves only 4 points back of Real Salt Lake for 4th place in the west but with 29 games played they have played more games then any of the teams above them and time is running short if they want to make a serious playoff push.
Toronto on the other hand find themselves at the very bottom of the eastern conference despite their 4-2 win over Columbus last time out in MLS action. They are only in last place by virtue of having played more games then Chicago and New England so the only reason for them to take this game against Colorado at all seriously would be because the club is hoping to not end up in last place. The good news from that perspective is that when these two teams met in Colorado earlier this season the Reds were able to come away with a sinlge point by virtue of a 0-0 draw.
So we know that in terms of the league this game is much more important for Colorado then it is for Toronto. That just leaves the question of how will Toronto FC approach this match. They have a must win game in the only competition they can still make an impact in on Tuesday but at the same time a poor showing in this game would do the club no favours as season ticket renewals are fast approaching. So Winter is caught in between a rock and a hard place when it comes to selecting his line up. From a footballing stand point the right thing to do is to rest the players who will be key in the Champions League match against Tauro and give the fringe players and some of the youngsters a chance to show what they have to offer in this match. But from a business stand point a poor showing at home will not sit well with the season ticket holders who for the most part have made it clear that they do not really care about the CCL, or so the attendance numbers at the games would suggest.
From the fans that I have talked to about this match I have gotten the sense that they do not care about this match against Colorado and would much rather see the CCL be the priority for the club. The problem is that these are not the average person that buys TFC season tickets. They are fans who are passionate, understand the game, and basically all sit in the south stands. So even if they are fine with the team playing a weakened side and risking getting blown out again if it means doing better in the CCL, they can not speak for the casual fans that fill most of the seats at BMO. In the end I expect that Winter will sort of go down the middle of the two options. He will almost certainly have to rest some of the players who played in Mexico just for their own good but I do not think he will be willing to throw out a reserve side for this game. So look for a half decent TFC side led by the likes of Avila, who can not play in the CCL match anyhow, and maybe we will even see new comer Davies get his first apperance for the club.
Do not forget to put your guess in for are you smarter than Mo and join us tomorrow on the game thread. Kick off is at 1:30 and the game will be on TSN if you are not heading down to BMO.