Preview: Colorado Rapids vs. Toronto FC
The Colorado Rapids are happy to be home after a grueling road stretch. They should have a major advantage against a Toronto FC squad that may have its mind on other matters.
The Rapids look to keep Toronto winless away from home when the teams meet for the first time in 2011 on Sunday night.
Colorado (4-3-3) earned a win and two ties during a three-game stretch on the road, capped by a 1-all draw with D.C. last Saturday. The Rapids will be playing their first home game since April 30.
"It's been a tough couple of weeks with a lot of travel," coach Gary Smith said. "I'm sure the guys will be pretty pleased to be playing here on Sunday rather than jumping on a flight again. I think it took a toll on everyone's body."
This match may not come at the ideal time for Toronto (2-4-5), as it is sandwiched between the club's two legs against Vancouver in the Canadian Championship. Toronto drew 1-all on the road Wednesday and remained in western Canada the next couple of days before traveling to Colorado.
"The reason is that if you want them to recover well after a game like we have played Wednesday, it's the distance because otherwise you have to fly back 6 1/2 hours and then the next day you have to fly back for 3 1/2 hours or maybe more," coach Aron Winter said.
Winter insists he will put out his best lineup Sunday, although he may have his eyes on next Wednesday's second leg at home against Vancouver. Toronto, 0-3-1 on the road, lost 3-1 at Colorado on April 18, 2010.
TFC is in its fifth season and in search of its first playoff berth. Winter is the club's fifth different permanent coach.
"They're a side that's in a bit of a transition," Smith said. "They've got a lot of new bodies. They've got a head coach who's trying to implement a new style and a new system to this group."
The Rapids are on the opposite side of the spectrum, having won their first MLS Cup in 2010.
Colorado should be bolstered Sunday by Conor Casey, who will make his first start since April 3. Casey, who began his MLS career with Toronto in 2007, missed six games with a hamstring injury before returning as a substitute last weekend.
The Rapids have totaled nine goals in the four matches he has played in compared to three in the six he missed. Casey's return is good news since fellow striker Omar Cummings is out with an ankle injury.
Caleb Folan scored both of his goals in Casey's last start and those two could be paired at forward Sunday for the Rapids, who clearly believe they are the superior club.
"Our job from minute one to minute 90-plus is to impose our way and impose our will on a Toronto side that we're capable of beating," Smith said.