TFC, Colorado both hope to make up for recent defeats

KURTIS LARSON, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:10 PM ET

TORONTO - The Rapids and Reds enter today’s match still healing from crippling midweek Champions League defeats.

The Reds return to BMO Field after a 4-0 pummelling from Pumas while the reigning MLS champion Colorado Rapids look to recover from an embarrassing result of their own — a 4-1 home loss to Mexico’s Santos Laguna Tuesday night.

While the Rapids played a first-choice lineup against the visitors, a mix of untimely injuries and suspensions forced head coach Aron Winter to name a host of second-team faces to a roster that was routinely beaten Wednesday night.

But a return to domestic competition will see Richard Eckersley and Eric Avila back for Toronto — Eckersley missed the Pumas match through suspension and Avila wasn’t eligible — while Stefan Frei could return from a leg contusion he suffered last week.

Although both sides return to league action following disappointing CONCACAF showings, the clubs are heading in decidedly different directions within MLS.

Toronto is among the league’s best over its last five matches, earning eight points from a possible 15, with impressive wins coming away against the East-leading Columbus Crew and at home to Real Salt Lake.

Meanwhile, the Rapids are winless in five overall — a combination of three MLS and two Champions League matches — and have been held scoreless in consecutive league games in Chicago and LA.

As if Colorado’s poor road form wasn’t bad enough, the Rapids are one of the few MLS clubs the Reds have an all-time winning record against — the clubs played to a scoreless draw back in May.

Furthermore, TFC is undefeated in four previous BMO Field meetings with the Rapids.

Winter will have to make changes to a side that showed nothing in possession and little inspiration in the final third in Mexico City. With Joao Plata set to miss his second straight match, expect Winter to reconfigure an experimental attack that flopped earlier this week.

Wednesday’s match saw Danny Koevermans drop into midfield behind Ryan Johnson with Danleigh Borman and Nick Soolsma completing TFC’s three-man attack. Replacing an injured Plata with Borman proved ineffective and Koevermans simply isn’t capable of providing the kind of work ethic a 4-3-3 system asks of its midfielders.

The return of Avila — alongside Julian de Guzman and Torsten Frings in midfield — will likely see Koevermans pushed back up front with Johnson potentially filling in for Plata on the left. Starting three true midfielders should help the Reds compete in the middle third of the pitch against one of the league’s best midfields.

But the additions and changes will do little to assist what continues to be a vulnerable back four. As demonstrated in Mexico, the Reds have little to combat pace up front and could struggle against a Colorado attack that punishes slow back lines.

Sanna Nyassi, Omar Cummings and Mac Kandji comprise a versatile Colorado attack that looks to expose shapeless defences with overlapping runs. The trio might be a handful for the central tandem of Andy Iro and Ty Harden if the pair fail to address the same defensive miscues that saw TFC concede early and often Wednesday.

With the Rapids looking to secure a playoff spot late in the season, Toronto has an opportunity to play spoiler if it can keep its unblemished home record against the Rapids intact.

Failure to earn a point could see the visitors approach the bottom of the playoff picture with just a handful of regular season games remaining.

The Reds will use the match to rebound from a disappointing midweek loss in an effort to get back on track ahead of a must-win Champions League group fixture with Tauro next week.


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