COMMERCE CITY, Colo. – There’s no MLS Cup hangover for Toronto FC.
The Reds proved as much on Tuesday night, dispatching the Colorado Rapids 2-0 in subfreezing conditions to take an early aggregate lead in in the first leg of the teams’ 2018 CONCACAF Champions League Round of 16 series at Dick's Sporting Goods Park.
“I think from the standpoint of confidence, continuity, things like that, there’s some carryover,” TFC manager Greg Vanney explained to reporters postgame. “I think the group understands that you never finish a season or start a season in the same place. We’ve got to work through some details still, get back in sync and get a little bit sharper. But the foundation for things is there. There’s some confidence and continuity that’s already in place with a group in which you’ve been successful.”
On the other side, newly-hired Colorado head coach Anthony Hudson continues to build his program, and was stuck in a Catch-22 of sorts, looking to balance preseason preparation with trying to win a competitive CCL match against a quality MLS side.
“I think it’s overall disappointing to lose the game. It was certainly an incredible test for us against the [MLS Cup] champions here in preseason,” he said. “In terms of where we’re at, six new players in the starting 11, three to four weeks into the preseason, although I’m personally disappointed we didn’t get the result, I’m really pleased in terms of progression. A new team is developing and there were a lot of positives tonight.”
In the first half, the Rapids did well to create chances, outshooting the visitors 8-5, including an inviting opportunity in the 27th minute when Dominique Badji went one-on-one with TFC goalkeeper Alex Bono, only to see his shot denied. But instead of a 1-0 Rapids lead at the break, both teams entered halftime deadlocked and scoreless.
“We had better chances than them and they’re a top team with players that cost many millions,” said Hudson. “Some of the football that led to those chances was very good. I’m pleased that all of the things that we’ve been working on were coming off in the first half.”
But the second half brought forth a glimpse of the TFC side that won a domestic treble last season. Sebastian Giovinco set up Jonathan Osorio’s goal to open the scoring in the 55th minute, followed by a dagger of his own on a side volley in the 73rd minute.
With the result, Toronto survived both the Rapids and the frigid weather, taking their 2-0 aggregate lead to BMO Field in next week’s second leg.
“Tough night to play; obviously, it’s cold, we’ve got a layer of ice and it’s chilly,” said Vanney. “But I thought both teams tried to do their best to play on the night. They gave us some challenges. We were a bit too spread out in the first half. We re-organized ourselves a bit better in the second half and I thought we took control of things and got the better of the chances. It was a challenging night to play, so I think the most important thing is both teams got through healthy on both sides.”