“It’s like playing in f*cking Siberia,” said a Toronto FC player entering the pitch before Tuesday night’s CONCACAF Champions League Round of 16 first leg against the Colorado Rapids at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park in Commerce City. The coldest MLS game on record was last season’s “Snow Opener” between Minnesota United and Atlanta United in Minneapolis, which checked in at 19° F.
Tuesday night’s match in the CCL made the frozen tundra of Minnesota feel like Ibiza. The temperature in Colorado was registered at 3° F. Michael Bradley, perhaps remembering a certain point in time when teammates of his made a huge deal over a bit of standing water, called the conditions “good.”
The attendance for the match was a meager 2,673, but remember, we’re talking Tuesday night, subfreezing temperatures and a Colorado Rapids club that finished 20th in the 22-team league last season while scoring a joint-worst total of 31 goals in 34 games. They're in the 2018 CCL by virtue of what they did in 2016, when they upset the odds (and the xG statistic) to finish runners-up in the Supporters' Shield race.
The Centennial 38 supporters group brought numbers and noise behind the goal, but it figures to be another year of rebuilding for the Rapids with new manager Anthony Hudson having to make the most of the very little that owner Stan Kroenke sends his way.
The addition of U.S. international Edgar Castillo — not exactly the sexiest piece of the puzzle at left back — has been Colorado’s marquee signing, and Toronto, the greatest MLS side ever and only getting stronger, duly took it to them.
The prized quartet of Michael Bradley, Victor Vazquez, Jozy Altidore and Sebastian Giovinco all essentially went the full 90 (Altidore was subbed off in the 89’), and 22-year-old Brazilian right back Auro, signed on loan from Sao Paulo, contributed with an assist on his competitive debut for TFC.
Giovinco assisted Jonathan Osorio on TFC’s opener in the 55th minute, and then Giovinco added a goal of his own with Auro providing the pass in the 73rd.
For me, this is The Tim Howard & The Colorado Rapids Experience. This goal GIF sums it up to perfection — the marking, the outcome, the Howard reaction. It’s all so 'Pids.
#Giovinco doubles the lead for #TFC away to #Rapids96!! Swift counterattack ends with Auro playing a great cross for Seba to finish with a clinical side-volley! Commanding 2-0 lead. #TFCLive #AtomicAnt #CCL #SCCL2018 pic.twitter.com/YQsHH9izhD— Jason Foster (@JogaBonito_USA) February 21, 2018
The return leg is Feb. 27 at BMO Field in Toronto, and the task for Colorado is probably the equivalent of the one facing Besiktas in the UEFA Champions League.
The winner advances to play either Costa Rica’s Herediano or Mexico’s Tigres, who played to a 2-2 draw in Heredia after the Costa Rican side scored in the 90th and 93rd minutes to shock the best club in Liga MX.