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Know Your Enemy: Colorado Rapids. Part Two, Tactics, Exploitation and Points Of Interest.

Click here for Part One: Lineup and Form.

The Tactics

Given the number of formation and personnel changes throughout the season - Cummings and Casey have only been able to start together three times, not very often for a first-choice pairing - it would be folly to proclaim - "this is what to expect".

The truth is they still haven't shown their true capability.

Since the proverbial lump-the-ball-up-to-the-big-man days under Smith, in order to exploit Casey's aerial domination and the speed of Cummings, the major shift has been towards playing the ball through the midfield, exploiting space on the flanks, and moving the ball more skillfully in general.

Starting at the back, they have an excellent keeper, one of the most underrated in the league without doubt. Big, reliable, commands his box, reads the game well and excellent at stopping shots.

A solid back-line, strong in the air, fast enough on the ground to deal with most threats. A pair of full-backs, each able to get up the field, fairly comfortable on the ball and capable of serving in excellent crosses.

Larentowicz keeps them ticking over in the midfield, solid, unspectacular, aware of danger and good at making himself available as an outlet when necessary. Decent enough in distribution, very good at breaking up the attack of the opponent, not afraid to get a little dirty if the situation calls for it and a fearsome strike from distance.

Perhaps the revelation under Pareja is how dynamic Mullan, a shuttler under Smith, restricted to mainly defensive duties, has shown himself capable of being. His ability to attack from the right flank has been impressive. A tireless work rate and surprising pace, the ability to pass and to cross has brought about countless scoring chances and more than a few goals.

Castrillon and Rivero are exactly what one would expect from South American attacking midfielders. Quick, but not too quick, strong and sturdy, Castrillon, the bigger of the two, is more likely to find himself in an advanced position - he started one match as a striker - while Rivero is more likely to hang about at the top of the box, looking for a loose ball upon which to pounce.

Both are excellent with the ball at their feet, Rivero in particular - as one would expect from a playmaker - can thread a lovely through-ball. He tends to handle set-piece delivery as well. Here he lays Cascio down the left, where the rookie displays a cool, confidence - and selflessness - in setting up Smith.

Up top, Casey and Cummings each have unique skill sets, which should be no surprise to anyone at TFC.

Casey's aerial ability need not be mentioned, but a bit of a surprise is his ability with the ball, holding up play, getting involved in the midfield buildup before trundling up to spearhead, and laying deft through-balls as he did for Cummings goal against Dallas.

Cummings, lightning quick with a striker's instinct, he can play out wide, will hover above the near-post for a cutback, but loves to bear down on goal, often making a bee-line for the opposition's keeper.

Cascio, playing on the left of an attacking three or as an out-and-out striker, deserves a special mention. While not consistent enough to be classed a breakout season, he has been reliable to a team struggling to find itself, a task difficult for any rookie.

Confident and calm in front of goal, he has speed to burn and just enough of the brashness of youth to try just about anything. A goal-scorer in college, he's been an exciting addition, and is particular dangerous in his new role of second half sub, where his fearlessness and pace can cause tired defenders trouble.

Jamie Smith has only recently returned from long-term injury - an ACL tear of his own - but provides another option on the left.

To sum Colorado up in a single word - transition. Not only in the sense of a club undergoing one, but also as in, they will cause trouble to their opponent in the.

Cummings, Cascio, Mullan, and Castrillon, they will gain back the ball and attack quickly. The Smith goal above is a perfect example - how quickly a goal kick from Portland turns into a counterattack is astonishing. Cummings' too, from their own half to a scoring chance in three passes.

Which is not to say they are not capable of creating chances by being more methodical.

Possession is key to the 4-3-3 formation, having the ball and keeping it limits the effectiveness of space afforded the opposition - a problem that plagued TFC in their attempt at the system. One of the revelations under Pareja is how much more effective they have become at that tact.

Colorado have only been out-possessed on four occasions - out of nineteen - this season; not to be unexpected at home given the advantage of altitude. But to control matches on the road at Salt Lake, Seattle, and Vancouver is a measure of how much time they spend on the ball.

However, possession will not win matches, converting chances when they come is essential and has been a struggle for the Rapids.


Pressuring the ball and plugging those passing lanes will be key to slowing down their lightning quick attack. Toronto must be wary of the pace, but should not drop off so much as to allow extra space to pick passes. Defending is always walking a tight-rope; give them a little, but not too much. Respect them, but don't fear them.

When a chance is created it must be taken, the recovery speed of Wynne at centre-back is remarkable, while Freeman and Moor are no slouches either - each having displayed some pace in snuffing out chances for Fernandez in Seattle and Castillo against Dallas.

That means - looking at you Ryan Johnson - no dawdling on the ball when approaching the box; they are coming, be quick.

Their marking from crosses has been woeful at times.

Koevermans would have relished such an encounter, but alas, Johnson and Silva will have to pick up the slack in his absence. Look how easily Fernandez gets away from his mark on this corner kick.

Should Colorado take the lead, Toronto must not let their heads drop. A trademark of the Paul Mariner regime has been a resilience not shown under Aron Winter. This team does not know when they are beat and Colorado have a tendency to let foes back into matches; they have lost three times after scoring first, tied for second-most in the league.

Points of Interest

Colorado Rapids Western Conference 6th Place

Points 22 Games 19 Wins 7, Losses 11, Draws 1

Goals For 26 Against 26 Differential 0

Home 5-4-1 Away 2-7-0 Last Five L-W-L-L-L

Colorado has five former TFC players in their midst: Marvell Wynne, Hunter Freeman, Joseph Nane, Conor Casey, and Tyrone Marshall. Wynne has a nice little fro going.

The referee for the evening will be taking charge of only his third MLS match. Seeing as he has handed out two red cards and two penalties over his career, TFC best be on their best behaviour.

Colorado have never taken a single point from BMO Field, though they did win their only MLS Cup Championship there in 2010. Some highlights from those matches include an Andy Boyens game-winner in 2007, a match featuring Srdjan Djekanovic in goal for TFC; a Rohan Ricketts brace powered 3-1 win in '08; goals from O'Brian White, Nana Attakora, and Fuad Ibrahim in 3-2 and 1-0 wins in '09 and '10; and sadly a Danny Koevermans brace - his first for the club - in a 2-1 win last September.

As always, check out more of James Grossi's work over at Partially Obstructed View, and follow him on twitter @Grawsee