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Toronto FC and the Colorado Rapids should look a little different when the teams meet in Major League Soccer on Saturday.
TFC’s usual refrain — the sole focus being on the next 90 minutes — isn’t quite accurate this week. The CONCACAF Champions League final with Guadalajara opens Tuesday, and it is expected to affect coach Greg Vanney’s squad selection in Denver.
“As we approach the weekend we will do our best to rest who we need to rest, we will play who we think is in the right physical frame and mental frame to get out there and play.” Vanney said in a conference call on Thursday. “A lot of guys will get opportunities this weekend … which is great for them and for our team.”
That will likely mean no Victor Vazquez (back), Chris Mavinga (abdomen) or Justin Morrow (calf), who have all been sidelined recently. Jozy Altidore and Gregory van der Wiel, who left the Champions League semifinal early this week, are also questionable. But defender Jason Hernandez, who re-signed with Toronto on Friday, could play. The 34-year-old made 10 appearances for the club last year.
Toronto also signed a trio of homegrown TFC II players — defender Julian Dunn, midfielder Aidan Daniels and midfielder/forward Ryan Telfer — to first-team contracts with next weekend in mind. The Reds will likely lean heavily on reserves again next week for an MLS game against Houston that falls between the two legs of the Champions League final.
The Rapids were a work in progress under new head coach Anthony Hudson when they fell to the Reds in the first round of the Champions League in February, but Hudson told his team’s website this week that Colorado, 1-1-2 in league play, is “in a different place.”
“By and large, they’re just better at what they do than the last time we saw them,” Vanney said. “I think they’re more familiar with what their coach wants them to do and what they are looking for out of their system … They’ve become more aggressive on the pressing side of things. There’s a little more confidence and quality in what they’re doing.”
Despite the evolution for both teams of late, Hudson says Colorado knows Toronto inside and out. While the Reds’ league record hasn’t exactly mirrored its Champions League success so far this year — they’re 1-2-0 through the first three games in the season and next to last in the Eastern Conference — Hudson believes Toronto’s most recent match, a 3-1 win over Real Salt Lake, was a performance that looked more like the champions the league got to know last year.
“Toronto has an unbelievable squad, a big squad,” Hudson said. “What we’ve seen is that they’re rotating their players every game so they’re able to sustain the league and the Champions League. I think we can expect a very, very strong Toronto team. They did start bad, but they’ve picked it up now.”