Colorado vs Toronto – Tuesday, February 20, 7PM PT/10PM CET – Dick’s Sporting Goods Park, Commerce City, United States of America, Colorado.
The CONCACAF Champions League will kick off with a new format this weekend. Technically the competition started in 2017 with the clubs from the smaller Caribbean and Central American countries playing in the CONCACAF League and the Caribbean Club Championship to qualify for the first knockout stage of the 2018 CONCACAF Champions League.
As a result, Colorado Rapids qualified for this competition at the tail end of the 2016 Major League Soccer season thanks to Dallas FC winning both the MLS Supporters Shield and the US Open Cup. Colorado had finished second in the Supporters Shield standings, which gave the club one of the four United States berths to Colorado, who finished second to Dallas in the Supporters Shield race.
Given Colorado’s last season it is, therefore, a bit odd to see the Rapids involved in continental competition—after all the Rapids finished 10th in the Western Conference standings with just 33 points 16-points outside of the playoffs. The Rapids fired head coach Pablo Mastroeni in August and did not announce a new head coach until after the season was concluded bringing in Anthony Hudson on November 29.
It is now Hudson’s job to rebuild the Rapids and to make them once again a contender in Major League Soccer. Hence, the 2010 MLS Cup winners have been active in the transfer market signing, or trading, for seven new players this winter. The likes of Danny Wilson (Glasgow Rangers) and Edgar Castillo (Monterrey) among others will be exciting additions that will strengthen a squad that includes former US national team keeper Tim Howard as well as former 1860 München star Stefan Aigner.
The Rapids have therefore put together an exciting side and will likely bring in further additions to strengthen the squad. But the game against Toronto might come too early to show what the team can do genuinely. Toronto have been the most dominant side in Major League Soccer for two years in a row, and only a freak performance by the Seattle Sounders has prevented them from winning two back to back MLS Cup titles.
Instead, Toronto have just the 2017 title to their name after defeating Seattle Sounders last December in the 2017 MLS Cup final. At the same time, Toronto also won two back-to-back Canadian Championships and the Supporters Shield in 2017. This season they want to add another title by becoming the first MLS team to win the CONCACAF Champions League. Canadian teams have always taken this competition more seriously than their US counterparts with the Montreal Impact reaching the final in 2015 and the Vancouver Whitecaps reaching the semifinals of the tournament last season.
Both teams would fall to Liga MX sides with Montreal losing to Club América and the Vancouver Whitecaps losing to Tigres UANL. Toronto, however, have the squad that could go toe-to-toe with the big teams from Liga MX. Adding to an already impressive side that includes Jozy Altidore, Michael Bradley, Víctor Vázquez and Sebastian Giovinco Toronto added Brazilian midfielder Auro and Dutch national team player Gregory van der Wiel. Rumour also has it that Toronto will add Spanish attacking midfielder Ager Aketxe from Atletico Bilbao to the side.
Altogether Toronto, therefore, have a formidable squad that could challenge the big boys from Liga MX. Should they get to this round, they will likely be drawn to Mexican Apertura winners Tigres UANL, who face Herediano in this round. But before dreaming of a clash of an MLS vs Liga MX clash of champions Toronto will have to battle brutal conditions. Temperatures are expected to be minus of up to -17 degrees Celsius and altitude of 2,250 metres at Dick’s Sporting Good Park just outside of Denver.
It will be a good mental test for Toronto FC, who will have to clear even more significant obstacles if they want to best their 2017 performance and add a continental title to their growing trophy cabinet.
Colorado vs Toronto – Player to look out for:
Stefan Aigner #7 – Colorado Rapids
Stefan Aigner joined Colorado Rapids following the relegation of his boyhood club 1860 München. The German winger enjoyed a successful spell with Eintracht Frankfurt in the Bundesliga before returning to his boyhood club 1860 in the summer of 2016. The dream of promotion ended in relegation to Liga 3 and failure to obtain a licence to play in that competition, which meant the Lions are now in the fourth division. As a result, Aigner left Germany to get “as far away from it as possible,” and joined Colorado Rapids to rebuild his career. Speaking to the Futbolgrad Network last summer Aigner has been positive about his North American experience and has been one of the few bright spots in Colorado’s squad.
Sebastian Giovinco #10 – Toronto FC
When it comes to Toronto FC’s most important player, it is difficult to look beyond Italian Sebastian Giovinco. The 31-year-old attacking midfielder has dominated the league by scoring 65 goals and 37 assists in 104 MLS games (regular season and playoffs) for Toronto FC. Some would even argue that Giovinco might be the best player to ever play in this league. It is undoubtedly true that the Atomic Ant, as he is called in Toronto due to his small stature, has brought Toronto to a new level and Toronto’s dominance over MLS would not be imaginable without the help of the creative midfielder.
Colorado vs Toronto – Match Stats
- With the Major League Soccer season not to kick off until March 3 this will be the first competitive fixture for either side this calendar year.
- Although the reigning MLS champions Toronto FC qualified for CONCACAF Champions League by winning the 2017 Canadian championship.
- Toronto managed treble by winning the Supporter Shield, Canadian Championship and MLS Cup.
- Colorado reached the competition by winning the 2016 MLS Supporters Shield.
- Colorado’s record against Toronto is W6 D2 L8.
Futbolgrad Network Prediction: Colorado vs Toronto – 1-3
Colorado vs Toronto – Possible Lineups
Howard – Castillo, Sjöberg, Ford, Smith, Miller – Gashi, Price, Aigner – Badji, McBean
Coach: Anthony Hudson
Bono – Zavaleta, Moor, Hagglund – Osorio, Bradley, Vazquez, Delgado, van der Wiel – Giovinco, Altidore
Coach: Greg Vanney
Manuel Veth is the owner and Editor in Chief of the Futbolgrad Network. He also works as a freelance journalist and social media editor at Bundesliga.com. He holds a Doctorate of Philosophy in History from King’s College London, and his thesis is titled: “Selling the People’s Game: Football’s transition from Communism to Capitalism in the Soviet Union and its Successor States,” which will be available in print soon. Originally from Munich, Manuel has lived in Amsterdam, Kyiv, Moscow, Tbilisi, London, and currently is located in Victoria BC, Canada. Follow Manuel on Twitter @ManuelVeth. Or contact him via email: [email protected]