|Marvell Wynne of the Colorado Rapids tries to boot the ball over the head of Toronto FC's Dan Gargan during Sunday night's MLS game in Denver. The teams played to a 0-0 draw. (Getty Images)
It was the performance TFC needed ahead of Wednesday’s Voyageurs Cup final.
The Reds followed up a poor performance in Vancouver with a hard-fought scoreless draw with the Colorado Rapids on Sunday night in Denver.
With Julian de Guzman serving suspension and a never-ending list of injuries piling up, all things pointed to a one-sided contest against the defending MLS Cup champions.
But it was Toronto that created the better opportunities throughout the match and will be justified in feeling disappointed not to come away with more.
An otherwise tame first half opened up before the break when TFC’s Mikael Yourassowsky picked out Joao Plata in the 45th minute.
Cutting in from the left, Plata slipped a clever pass behind Colorado’s defence back to Yourassowsky. In his return from injury, the Belgian’s slotted cross found Nick Soolsma alone in the penalty area but the winger’s close-range effort failed to test Colorado’s Matt Pickens.
Coming out of the half, Toronto’s offence picked up where it left off with Plata coming close to breaking the deadlock in the 47th minute.
After interchanging with Plata, Javier Martina collected a pass on the left and spotted the Ecuadorian in space at the top of the box. Plata collected the pass with his back to goal before turning and hitting an off-balance shot that forced Pickens down to his left.
The Reds will be without Plata for an extended period of time after his encouraging month of May earned him a callup to the Ecuadorian national team. The 19-year-old looks set to miss Wednesday’s Cup final with Vancouver at BMO Field, as reports had him scheduled to meet his fellow countrymen following Sunday’s match.
Colorado had a difficult time figuring out Toronto’s defensive setup that flooded the midfield with three central players while TFC’s wingers worked well all game to track back and support Toronto’s midfielders
Replacing injured Jacob Peterson and Tony Tchani, Nathan Sturgis and Yourassowsky put in quality minutes on both sides of the ball and provided the fresh legs the Reds needed following a difficult combination of travel and mid-week games.
Typically used for his ability to keep possession and slow things down centrally, Yourassowsky came close to giving the Reds the lead when his left-footed effort caromed off the crossbar.
In the 62nd minute, Martina played a perfectly weighted through-ball into space for Yourassowsky to reach in stride. His strike from the corner of the area forced Pickens to tip the shot just off the bar and out of play.
Colorado applied late pressure for the final 15 minutes but never really tested Stefan Frei.
In the 72nd minute, Colorado substitute Sanna Nyassi beat Sturgis to the end-line and slid a ball across the face of goal. A good defensive play saw Toronto’s Dicoy Williams break up the threat but only as far as the top of the box where the Colorado’s Jeff Larentowicz was waiting to pounce. TFC’s Alen Stevanovic did well to recover and managed to break up the play before Larentowicz took the open look on goal.
It was a solid defensive effort from what was essentially Toronto’s second team. A side largely made up of reserves that kept its shape defensively and came close to stealing three points on the road.
Helped on by the absence of Colorado’s Omar Cummings and Caleb Folan, Toronto’s back-line did well to contain Conor Casey in his first start since April 3. The U.S. international had scored four goals in four games against the Reds but was frustrated all night.
TFC did well to hold its nerve to close the match and absorb a flurry of half-chances into stoppage time. It was a positive display and should serve as a momentum builder ahead of Wednesday night’s Cup final.
Aron Winter’s ability to secure a result on the road while resting a number of crucial pieces who were carrying heavy legs bodes well for the club.