Writing the first pre-game article of the season is a bit like dusting off something out of the closet that you put in there at the end of last year. Say your Colorado Rapids scarf, or maybe that rain jacket that was last used back in September sometime.
It almost feels like it’s been that long since the burgundy boys played a full 90, or even a match worth getting excited about. A few scrimmages down south, a few training sessions in a bubble and now on turf and the Rapids are ready to start the season. Kind of, it’s a CONCACAF Champions League game against Toronto FC.
Ignoring the fact that the Rapids are still playing a team from MLS, it is a CCL game and that means something. Four teams from the United States are qualified into CCL, the 1st and 2nd teams in the Supporters Shield, and the 1st and 2nd teams in the MLS Cup. So, this year’s pool is from the 2016 season which will include Seattle, Dallas, NYRB and Colorado. Toronto is in because they are the best Canadian team.
Facing Toronto FC is no easy task, while the Rapids did earn a draw against TFC last year; it’s a whole new Rapids team this year. Both teams will be playing a similar formation. Toronto FC successfully played with three in the back and two strikers all season last year. Toronto FC posted an MLS record of highest points in a season with 69. TFC scored the most goals in 2017 with 72, was second best as far as goals allowed with 32, and second fewest fouls committed. Toronto was organized and disciplined in 2017 and made only a few changes in the offseason.
The Rapids on the other hand have made significant changes too, not just the roster, but to the whole club. With nearly an entirely new training staff, medical staff and coaching staff the new players and returning players can start on the same page from the get go.
As for whom we should expect to see start from the Rapids, I can say with 100% assurance that new defender Danny Wilson will not be starting. Wilson had his first training session with the team on Sunday, so while he will be a big add to the back line, the burgundy boys will have to go without the Scotsman for this one.
Ideally every other big name on this roster should be penciled in to the starting lineup; fitness and form will be the reason Coach Hudson goes with whomever he chooses.
The coaching staff has been used to getting players ready with a short amount of time, if anything the Rapids has the edge here. Weather will also play a part, with all the elements of Snow Clasico III; fans who are planning on attending should make sure to bundle up.
Predicted starting XI: Howard, Sjoberg, Smith, Ford, Castillo, Hairston, Price, Boateng, Aigner, Badji, McBean.