Toronto FC are finally back in action tonight, as they clash with the Colorado Rapids in the first leg of the CONCACAF Champions League round of 16. In a format we’re all well-accustomed to, this is a home-and-home knockout tie, with the higher aggregate score (more away goals if tied) going through to the quarterfinals.
Also, don’t forget that since it’s a western game, kickoff is slated for 10 p.m. ET at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park.
The last time these two sides met, it didn’t go so well for TFC. The Rapids visited BMO Field last summer, and scraped out one of the six draws they managed in 2017, as well as one of just two points away from home. In fairness, the Reds were missing Michael Bradley and Jozy Altidore.
During that game, Colorado drew the ire of many Toronto fans due to some of their time-wasting tactics in the dying minutes. In the frigid Denver conditions tonight, it certainly wouldn’t be surprising to see them start to cramp up a lot if the Rapids are in a decent spot score-wise at the end.
Colorado can be a surprisingly stingy team. Their defence was decent last year, allowing 51 goals. That sounds bad, but it was third-fewest among non-playoff teams, considering they finished with just 33 points. Their 2017 back line was anchored by Axel Sjoberg, who will hope to be healthy enough to start more than the 19 games he saw last year.
The Rapids’ defending will only be stronger than last year, too. They’ve invested in the back line, adding a few interesting pieces. Tommy Smith (from Ipswich Town), Danny Wilson (Rangers), and Edgar Castillo (Monterrey) will all help shore things up at the back. Johan Blomberg (AIK) and Jack Price (Wolverhampton) have been brought in to add some midfield depth.
Basically, don’t expect a high-scoring game. The Rapids will do their best in the cold weather to stifle players like Sebastian Giovinco and Jozy Altidore, hoping they can nick a result on the counter attack or something. They struggled to score last year — their leading goalscorer, Dominique Badji, had nine goals — but a good bounce or a timely interception and then they’ll have every reason to park the bus entirely.
This is the game TFC have been planning for the past two months. They’ve been training at altitude, hoping the thinner air won’t be too much of a drawback. This is where they find out just how prepared they are.
Hang out in the comments to discuss the match with us!
TV channel & live stream
TV: TSN 2 (Canada), Univision.com (United States)
Stream: TSN Go (Canada), MLS Live (out of market)
Both teams have a clean bill of health, this being the first game of their seasons. For Toronto FC, there was a slight concern with Tosaint Ricketts’ thyroid issue, but it sounds like that’s all cleared up. Some of the Reds’ new signings probably won’t be involved (I doubt we’ll see Auro or Ager Aketxe), but Gregory van der Wiel might be.
Toronto FC (4-4-2): Bono; Morrow, Hagglund, Moor, Auro; Bradley (c), Osorio, Delgado, Vazquez; Giovinco, Altidore
Colorado Rapids (3-5-2): Howard; Ford, Smith, Wynne; Hairston, Boateng, Martinez, Price, Castillo; Badji, McBean