But entering Saturday’s home match with the Reds (3 pm ET | ESPN+; CTV, TSN1/4 in Canada), the Colorado Rapids aren’t shying away from the challenge.
“Having played against them a couple of times with players new to the league, we feel like we know what their strengths and weaknesses are,” Rapids center back Tommy Smith told MLSsoccer.com this week. “To be fair to them, they’ll know us as well. It will be a good contest.”
It will mark the third meeting between the two sides in the past two months, following the Rapids’ CCL Round of 16 series defeat in February. In the second game of that series, the Rapids accomplished what neither top Liga MX sides Tigres nor Club América could – a clean sheet at BMO Field. Combined with incremental improvement in each of their matches in 2018, it’s given Colorado confidence heading into this weekend.
“Obviously, we’re another few weeks down the line with everybody getting used to the new system,” Smith explained. “We feel like we’re a much better team than we were when we played those Champions League games and, especially compared to when we last played them at home.”
“If people are actually watching our team, you’ll see that we have a new team that’s progressing,” added Rapids head coach Anthony Hudson. “We’re now seeing an identity with our team. We’re starting to see a certain work ethic, a certain style of football.”
While confident, Colorado is by no means throwing caution to the wind. Despite Toronto’s current injuries and fatigue following Tuesday’s 1-1 draw with América at the Estadio Azteca, Hudson acknowledged that Greg Vanney’s side still has the quality to be dangerous.
“If you were to see the board in our coaches’ office and see the squad they have and the rotations they’ve had in all their MLS and Champions League games, and the quality of their squad, you can see they can rotate quite easily and the level in their team doesn’t drop,” said Hudson.
Despite the fanfare surrounding the visitors, and his recent comments regarding his team being “written off” early in the season, Hudson is adamant that Saturday isn’t a “statement game.”
“What we’re going to do is not going to be based on one game or one result,” he said. “We’re building something, so that won’t be defined on the Toronto performance. We’re certainly confident and we believe in our season and the future of what we’re doing.”