COMMERCE CITY, Colo. — As one might expect from the 26-point chasm separating the teams in the standings, Toronto FC and the Colorado Rapids had different reactions to their 0-0 draw Saturday.
For Toronto, still bottom of the MLS standings at 4-15-7, it was a rare point – and a prized one coming on the road against a Colorado club that has not lost since July 24. TFC is now unbeaten in its last three games (2-0-1) in all competitions – after losing six straight and going winless in nine (0-7-2) in league play.
"This team is changing from being a number of individuals to be that – to be a team," Toronto coach Javier Perez said approvingly.
"I like the way that the team starts to click," added the Spaniard. "I like the things I start to see – how we are organized defensively, how we can interact with each other."
Colorado coach Robin Fraser, a former Toronto assistant, was more subdued despite seeing his 12-4-9 team extend its unbeaten run to 11 games (5-0-6).
"A little bit disappointing to not create as many chances as we would liked to have," he said. "Toronto did a good job of getting a lot of numbers behind the ball, making difficult to penetrate them. But if that's what the team does, then it's our job to find ways to break them down and we didn't. We probably weren't as sharp in the attacking end as we needed to be.
"And at the end of the day it became a real dogfight. Credit to them. They did a good job of making it difficult for us."
Colorado captain Jack Price said he was "disappointed again to drop two points" in a fourth straight draw.
"We just had a good chat in the changing room about where we want to be in the next nine games and we feel like we're just not doing enough," he added. "Including myself, every single person.
"I know we've come a long way and we're disappointed now with a draw … but still it's not enough. People are going to say we're unbeaten in 11 but we know we should be climbing this table and we should be top by a few points now."
It was a game light on offence with scoring chances few and far between. Colorado pressed in the dying minutes, however, with substitutes Diego Rubio and Dominique Badji bolstering the attack.
While Colorado outshot Toronto 10-8 and had 62 per cent possession, it only managed one shot on target. Toronto had two.
Toronto employed a back three with wingbacks dropping back to make it a five-man backline as needed. The change did not go unnoticed by Fraser, who lamented his team did not move the ball quicker against a side that had a lot of numbers in defence.
"I would never ever criticize the way another team plays. Whatever another team does, it's our job to figure out how to beat them and how to still find some advantages regardless of how difficult they make it for us," he said.
Colorado (12-4-9) is now unbeaten in 12 games at Dick's Sporting Goods Park (6-0-6) since a 3-1 loss to Austin FC in its April 24 home opener.
Toronto pulled even with Austin FC on points with 19 but remained in the league basement on goal difference. Austin hosts the Los Angeles Galaxy on Sunday.
The clean sheet was just the second in league play for Toronto this season, following a 2-0 win over Columbus back on May 12.
The Rapids, who entered weekend play just two points out of first place in the Western Conference, have lost just once — July 24 at Real Salt Lake — in their last 16 games (7-1-8).
Saturday's game marked Fraser's 50th at the Colorado helm since leaving TFC in August 2019. He is 25-12-13 with his team's 25 wins, 82 goals and 88 points all club records over 50 games in the post-shootout era.
Toronto, playing its fifth game in two weeks, was coming off a 4-0 midweek win over York United FC in Canadian Championship play. Last Saturday it downed Nashville SC to snap a six-game losing streak and nine-game winless run (0-7-2).
Both teams managed just one shot on target in an uneventful first half.
Colorado had more of the ball early with Kellyn Acosta pulling the strings in midfield. But it produced few early scoring chances with Michael Barrios' header off-target in the 12th minute. A deflection off TFC defender Kemar Lawrence went just wide of the Toronto goal in the 17th minute.
Lawrence got a timely boot to the ball in the 25th minute, preventing Mark-Anthony Kaye from finding Barrios in front of goal.
Colorado began to fire crosses into the Toronto penalty box in the second half with wingback Keegan Rosenberry delivering some good balls from the right flank. At the other end, Yeferson Soteldo was the lone bright spot in the TFC attack although he missed the target on several occasions.
Toronto appealed unsuccessfully for a penalty in the 85th minute, with Mark Delgado complaining he had been pulled back by Lucas Esteves.
Toronto defender Chris Mavinga limped off in the 33rd minute. Eriq Zavaleta went off in the 75th after getting caught in a tangle of bodies off a corner.
Perez did not think either injury was serious.
Perez made four changes to the team that blanked York with Lawrence, Zavaleta, Noble Okello and Patrick Mullins coming into the starting 11.
Jonathan Osorio captained Toronto in the absence of Michael Bradley, who was suspended for yellow card accumulation.
Reigning league MVP Alejandro Pozuelo missed a fifth straight game with a lower-body injury. Also out injured were Ayo Akinola, Jozy Altidore, Tsubasa Endoh, Ralph Priso and Jordan Perruzza. Endoh underwent surgery on his right leg Friday. He is expected to be out for three months.
Short on bodies, Toronto dressed two goalkeepers — Quentin Westberg and Kevin Silva — on its bench.
TFC alumni Clint Irwin, Steven Beitashour and Collen Warner were on the Rapids bench. Kaye, a former member of the Toronto FC academy, started for Colorado.
The Rapids are now 6-1-2 all-time at home against Toronto and have held TFC scoreless in its last five visits.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 25, 2021