Part One was posted yesterday, looking over their potential starting lineup and form heading into Saturday’s match.
Rule number one to defeat the 2014 edition of the Colorado Rapids is simple – do not concede a penalty kick.
That, of course, is easier said than done.
Penalties can be won or earned – and most of Colorado’s five have been won; well, three of the five at least.
Taking away the two soft calls – Jamison Olave’s ‘foul’ on Marvin Chavez against New York and Ike Opara’s handball in the Kansas City match – Colorado has earned their other three penalties from dynamic attacking play with a touch of veteran savvy; even those soft calls were the result of positive movements into the opponent’s box.
Consider the second they won against Kansas City, Nick LaBrocca wins a loose ball just outside the area with good pressure on Claudio Bieler, touching forward to Shane O’Neill, who nutmegs Benny Feilhaber en route to goal. Feilhaber scythes down the right-back before he can cut a dangerous ball back into the middle:
Whereas both penalties won against Portland were the direct result of Dillon Powers putting forward dangerous balls in the space behind the back-line to spring their speedy forwards.
The first saw him lift a ball over the back-line for Deshorn Brown to chase prompting Donovan Ricketts to come rushing off his line and thundering into his Jamaican national teammates:
The second, meanwhile, was prompted by a very poor turnover from Pa Modou Kah, which allowed Powers to step through a few challenges and spring Sanchez down the right – there was not a whole lot of contact, but Sanchez knows what to do in that situation:
Clearly, Powers in the focal point of the attack. From his central position, he will either spray balls about for their wide speed to exploit or slice through the middle himself to cause trouble.
If Michael Bradley is fit, he should be able to keep tabs on the young midfielder, but if not, his replacement, whether Kyle Bekker, Jeremy Hall, or whomever, will have to keep a close eye on the machinations of Powers.
And then there is the concern that Jose Mari will continue to drop bombs:
Powers and LaBrocca in particular are very good at striking from range as well, while Gabby Torres hit a screamer last season, so Toronto will have to be wary of being forced deep by the speedy attacks and conceding space atop the box.
This will be especially difficult if Pablo Mastroeni puts a big body like Edson Buddle up top – Buddle will battle with the centre-backs, keeping them occupied and opening up that space.
As if they did not have enough attacking options, Charles Eloundou made his long-awaited debut in Vancouver – they have had issues getting the teenager’s transfer from Cameroon sorted out – and set up Mari’s second with a clever pull-back to the top of the box, deftly laid off by Nathan Sturgis.
On the other side of the ball, Colorado has conceded five goals through their four matches and patterns have emerged.
One of the risks of attacking with such verve is that the team gets spread too thin in advance of properly clearing the ball.
Consider Thierry Henry’s goal in the season opener. Colorado is moving the ball around the back, Marc Burch takes a little too long to make the pass to Torres, telegraphing his intent and allowing New York to collapse and force the turnover.
From there they are on the back-foot. Wynne pokes away from Bradley Wright-Phillips, but Lloyd Sam collects and breaks in down the right. By the time Sam puts in his cross, both Tim Cahill and Henry have congregated at the back-post. Wynne and O’Neill only have eyes for the ball and of all the people to leave alone, unmarked, Henry converts the chance with a diving header:
That same emphasis on moving forward proved costly again against Kansas City, as a goal-kick ping-pongs into a turnover in the centre of the pitch and KC breaks on goal.
Once more, the coverage on the back-side run falls apart, as Wynne has eyes on the ball and does not notice Graham Zusi running clear behind him, while O’Neill gives up the chase prematurely and Zusi walks in the low pass easily.
That right-side of the Rapids defense has looked suspect this season – O’Neill is not really an out-side back, and Wynne can be guilty of losing his mark on occasion.
Toronto should definitely look to exploit that side when on the counter – with Jackson surging up the attacking right, it will open up the far-side of the pitch, while committing an extra man into the box will often see fortune favour the bold. Gilberto would do very well to find that space to get on the end of a cross.
The match against KC was one to forget for Marvell, not only did his turnovers play a role in the first two goals against, but he was sent off for a second yellow, leaving his team down a man and opening the door for KC to win in stoppage-time.
Note how Dom Dwyer backs O’Neill into position to make space for his game-winning blast:
That hesitancy to get too close in the box – and the failure of the midfield to quickly get back, doubling up the pressure to force Dwyer wide, could be exploited by Toronto – after such an excellent performance last week, Jackson is due for a goal.
Without Wynne in the lineup against Vancouver, serving a suspension for his red card, the lack of pace in Colorado’s defense was exposed.
A spot of head-tennis sees Sebastian Fernandez head forward for Darren Mattocks to flick on. Kenny Cooper holds it up and puts a ball in behind for Mattocks to chase:
With Jermian Defoe ruled out, it will fall to Gilberto to exploit this frailty, as long as Wynne is nowhere nearby – he’s fast.
Points of Interest
Check out the Rapids podcast for a neat interview with Marvell Wynne, who discusses his time in Toronto.
Their spectacular April Fool’s prank featured one of the most famous kits of all-time, the Caribou of Colorado, the quotes, video, and gallery are each spectacular in their own right - they should definitely wear them at least once.
This will be the thirteenth all-time meeting between the two sides, with Toronto winning seven, Colorado four, and a single draw. TFC’s dominance gets even more stark at home, where they have won all six meetings, but only once by more than a single goal – a 3-1 win back in 2008.
Colorado won the sole meeting last year, 1-0 on a late goal from Edson Buddle after a misstep from Logan Emory gave him a look in the 86th minute.
Colorado won the 2010 MLS Cup at BMO Field, so have a fondness for the place, despite having never won there in the league.