Keys against Toronto: Pressure and Pass to Success
For the second weekend in a row, the Colorado Rapids will be hosting a Canadian team as part of this three-game home stand. Saturday evening, it's Toronto FC. Like the Whitecaps, Toronto made a midseason coaching change; the club fired Chris Armas after the worst defeat in franchise history, a 7-1 beatdown suffered at the hands of D.C. United.
Unfortunately for the Reds, this is not the same Toronto FC side of recent memory that was headed up by Greg Vanney and featured Robin Fraser on the coaching staff. 2021 has been rough for TFC; they have the fewest points in MLS (18), tied for the fewest wins (4) and they have the worst goal differential in the league (-23).
That's the bad news. The good news is Toronto won a midweek match against York United FC and advanced to the semifinals of the Canadian Championship. They remain alive with a chance to win some silverware in what's been a dismal year in league play. Part of that is thanks to the small field that is the Canadian Championship, but credit does go to the TFC front office, veteran leadership and culture for making a run when they could've packed it in long ago.
Also in the good news column for the Reds is they won their last league match, as well, in a 2-1 home victory over Nashville SC last weekend. That's two wins on the trot coming into DICK'S Sporting Goods Park for a team that does still have players like Michael Bradley and Yeferson Soteldo.
The Rapids will aim to end their three-game winless streak and potentially climb in the Western Conference standings. Here's how it can be done.
This applies to both sides of the ball. When the Rapids are on the ball, they need to keep Toronto pinned up against their own goal. The Reds are the only side in the league giving up more than two goals per game. They've also conceded the most goals in the league at 51, and they have the fewest clean sheets in the league - one. On the other side of the ball, per fbref.com, Toronto have taken the fewest shots (231) and fewest shots on target (80), but are in the upper tier in the league in goals per shot at 0.11. Don't give them good looks because they're good at finishing.
Pass to Success
The Rapids are completing 88.5 percent of their short passes, 88.6 percent of their medium passes and 65.4 percent of their long passes, per fbref.com. The Rapids will likely need to pass their way behind the TFC defense as Toronto have committed the fewest fouls in the league this year (245), and the Rapids have suffered the fewest fouls (208), per fbref.com. Maybe the Rapids will get some good looks off free kicks, but if they do, it's likely to be a limited number of opportunities. Work the ball around the TFC defense, make them chase, create numerical advantages and finish chances.
Get Back in the Win Column
The Rapids have two more games in this home stand before departing for what will be the toughest road trip of the year. Neither Toronto FC nor Austin FC are above the red line; in fact, both teams are at the bottom of their respective conferences. It's imperative the Rapids break out of this three-game slump that has seen the club pick up just one point from each match. It's realistic for the Rapids to shoot for the No. 1 playoff seed in the West. Imagine home field advantage and never having to leave Colorado. Instead of going to Kansas City or Seattle in November, imagine them coming to elevation with a berth in MLS Cup on the line. That's the world I want to live in, and the Rapids need to get all six points from the rest of this home stand if they want it to happen.
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Major League Soccer Stories from September 23, 2021
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