COMMERCE CITY, Colo.—The Colorado Rapids already have four preseason games on the books under new head coach Anthony Hudson, but they’ll face their first real test Tuesday night (9pm ET | TSN2; UnivisionDeportes.com) when they host reigning MLS Cup champions Toronto FC in the first leg of their 2018 CONCACAF Champions League Round of 16 series at Dick's Sporting Goods Park.
Aside from continuing to implement Hudson’s new system and tactics, the Rapids will be faced with a host of challenges, from inclement weather to an opponent regarded as the best in MLS history after a historic treble in 2017.
“It’s the best team in league history, that’s your scouting report,” Rapids captain Tim Howard told reporters Tuesday afternoon, as snow continued to fall in the Denver area. “They proved that last year. They have incredible quality up front and they rely on that quite a lot. Toronto is a finished product, they won the treble last year.”
While snow isn’t expected for the game, gametime temperatures are expected to be well below freezing at kickoff. But both sides have dealt with their fair shares of cold-weather matches over the years.
“The conditions are what they are,” Howard said. “We don’t have much choice in the matter. Most of our guys have played in similar games somewhere along the way. It’s not ideal, but it’s not that much of an issue. Whatever may come tomorrow, we’ll be prepared.”
Lol okay pic.twitter.com/mp8cg6HazZ— Colorado Rapids (@ColoradoRapids) February 18, 2018
“These things are out of our control,” Hudson said. “Nothing has changed in the preparation or the game plan. Until we’re told otherwise, we’ll prepare as normal and be ready for the game.”
Colorado will be actively prepping for Toronto’s dynamic combination of attacking talent. Aside from the household names of Jozy Altidore, Sebastian Giovinco and Michael Bradley, the Rapids have also kept a close watch on midfielder Víctor Vázquez and left back Justin Morrow.
“They manage to quickly advance with numbers and that’s one of the reasons they did so great last year was goal scoring, especially from the left back position,” Howard said. “We’re aware of all their keys and they’re a dangerous team.”
In his first season with the club, Hudson made it clear to reporters that he’s not out to prove anything to those around MLS or in the media with this match. But he does believe that starting the year off with a matchup against a quality side in TFC is a welcome test.
“This season is not just a trial season for us or an experimental season,” said Hudson. “We want to be there at the playoffs, at end of the season challenging – there’s no questions about that. How we get there along the way, we’re not going to get carried away either way.”