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Know Your Enemy: Colorado Rapids – Part Two: Game Film – Tactics, Exploitation, and Points of Interest

The second installment of Waking the Red’s Know Your Enemy series, previewing Toronto FC’s upcoming opponent, Colorado Rapids, reviewing the game film for strengths and weakness.

"YMCA, I mean.. DSGP, It's Fun to Play at the..." Rapids coach Oscar Pareja Getting into the Match
"YMCA, I mean.. DSGP, It's Fun to Play at the..." Rapids coach Oscar Pareja Getting into the Match
George Frey

Earlier today part one investigated Colorado’s lineup and form, the second will review game film, looking at how they scored and were scored upon, as well as diving into some interesting factoids.

The Tactics

A strong work ethic has accompanied every bit of success the side has achieved this season. Part of that game-plan involves a strategy of high-tempo pressing.

An important feature of the modern 4-3-3, the style coach Oscar Pareja, was expected to utilize – he has since reverted to a simpler 4-4-2 until he can assemble and have a healthy enough squad to employ his plan – the application of pressure on the ball-carrier will hopefully induce mistakes and force turnovers in dangerous parts of the pitch.

Atiba Harris is a very mobile – and physical – forward, Dillon Powers has quite the engine in the centre of the park, and should Deshorn Brown be fit in time, the pressure they apply can cause serious troubles.

Against Houston that pressure prevented the Dynamo from building their attack and stifled a formidable opponent. Away to Salt Lake, such high pressure led to the turnover that allowed Brown to steal in and open the scoring.

That same pressure can also lead to chances on the counterattack, as with Jamie Smith’s blast from distance against Philadelphia. Smith, lacking the breakaway speed of other attackers, took his chance to unleash a blast from distance.

Toronto must be cautious in their build-up play and move the ball with better efficiency than they have in recent weeks.

Smith is not the only member of the Rapids that poses a threat from distance, rookie Powers let loose this smash against Portland.

It was his first professional goal; not a bad way to introduce yourself to the league.

Penalty kicks have been a major factor in Colorado matches, both for and against.

They have scored on both opportunities from the spot – with Hendry Thomas and Brown stepping up against Portland and Chivas, respectively.

It is a consequence of their ability to dribble into the box, having gotten goal-side of the defenders – against Portland Tony Cascio had his heel clipped by Diego Chara and against Chivas Eric Avila committed a similar offense on Brown.

Thomas went low to the keeper’s left, while Brown went low to the keeper’s right.

Clint Irwin was welcomed to the league by facing penalty attempts in four consecutive matches.

He conceded the first two to LA’s Mike Magee and Portland’s Will Johnson - who both went to his right – before saving Salt Lake’s Alvaro Saborio’s attempt in Colorado and seeing Jose Correa send his off the bar.

Their conceding of kicks evidences their difficulties at marking attackers in the box – Portland’s attempt came when Harris fouled David Horst in the box; Salt Lake’s when Powers had a hold of Kyle Beckerman and Chivas’ when Shane O’Neill shoved Correa.

It is a weakness that also surfaced in the goals they have allowed, as will be highlighted shortly.


Like penalty kicks, the ability to counterattack has cut both ways for the Rapids.

Forcing turnovers has proven useful, but committing men forward leaves gaps in the back.

Philadelphia’s second goal, from none other than Jack McInerney, was a glittering example of a side being sliced open by some incisive play.

Antoine Hoppenot shirked the challenge of Thomas – no small feat – and slipped into McInerney making a diagonal run into the box.

That same inability to properly track threats has proved a weak-point – and should come as no surprise given the rotating cast of characters on the pitch.

Against Seattle, Obafemi Martins, perhaps the most dangerous man on the pitch, found himself with time and space to easily finish a juicy rebound – Irwin must have been kicking himself for pushing the ball into such a troublesome area.

While Will Johnson is so open for the following header it is hard to fathom.

Lax marking is one flaw, but a failure to commit, or backing off, is another.

Houston’s Giles Barnes was able to equalize when Drew Moor failed to pressure him, allowing Barnes to tee up this beauty.

Toronto must look to ask questions of the Colorado defense, commit numbers forward – something they have repeatedly failed to do this season, sending cross into an empty box – and force the Rapids into making silly mistakes.

Points of Interest

An Interview with Irwin, from

They have launched a new match-day feature for fans, an autograph alley, following each home match. Shudder at the thoughts of such a face-to-face with unhappy fans in Toronto.

As cross-conference opponents, this is their only meeting of the season.

The two last met on July 18th last season in Toronto when TFC ran out 2-1 winners on a pair of second half strikes – from Luis Silva and Andrew Wiedeman – after Conor Casey had put the Rapids ahead in the first half.

Toronto’s last visit to Dick’s Sporting Goods Park (May 22nd 2011) ended in a 0-0 draw.

Toronto has a four-match unbeaten run going against the Rapids – three wins and a draw – stretching back to April of 2010 when Colorado won 3-1 at home with a brace from Casey and a Jeff Larentowicz strike overpowering a Dwayne De Rosario effort.

The two have met eleven times previously, with Toronto winning seven, losing three, and drawing once.

Enjoy the match.