COMMERCE CITY, Colo. — Gary Smith will never tell you what his lineup is going to be, and he sure as heck isn’t going to give much away ahead of a match the size of Sunday's MLS Cup (8:30 p.m. ET, ESPN/Galavision/TSN2).
You have to read between the lines to figure out what the Colorado Rapids head coach is thinking.
Smith has already revealed that he may place a man-to-man marker on FC Dallas' creative genius, David Ferreira. Rapids defensive midfielder Jeff Larentowicz may be just that man. But he also doesn’t like the fact that such an option limits his own team’s offensive thrust.
He also said at training this week that he may have to match Dallas’ formation to blunt the opposition’s creativity. Dallas coach Schellas Hyndman has described his preferred formation as a 4-1-4-1.
“Our shape is more accustomed to a 4-4-2, but to match them up neutralizes a lot of what they can do,” Smith said.
Then again, the last time the Rapids played Dallas — on Oct. 9 in Texas — Smith aggressively used all three main forwards from the start in Omar Cummings, Conor Casey and Macoumba Kandji. The gamble partly paid off as the Rapids took an early lead and ended up with a 2-2 tie. But they also conceded two goals in a 15 minute span in the first half when the Dallas attack looked like it could score at will.
“That is a possibility, but whether it will be from the start is more unlikely,” Smith said of the three forwards scenario.
[inline_node:323635]WATCH: Smith arrives in Toronto, discusses MLS Cup
Personnel wise, Smith is still struggling with the possibility of assist leader Jamie Smith not being available following a calf injury that forced him to miss last weekend’s Eastern Conference Championship victory over the San Jose Earthquakes.
He is also mulling over his back line.
Left back Antony Wallace may just give way to the more physical presence of center back Julien Baudet with Drew Moor moving out to the left.
Such an option does blunt the Rapids’ own creativity going forward from the back, however. Smith said he was very impressed with Baudet’s contribution in last weekend’s game when he came on for Wallace in the 78th minute.
“He’s very much in my thoughts,” Smith said of Baudet. “He is very important to this group even if he has been coming in off the bench. Last weekend, the ball was like a magnet to his head and he had three or four headers defensively that were a big reason why we won the game. It’s going to be a typical English day with a lot of physical challenges and so he’s very high up in my thoughts.”
A typical English day, indeed. With a forecast of under 40 degrees and possible showers at kick off, the conditions may suit Colorado more than their opponents.
The Rapids have gotten used to the cold in recent weeks with the frigid road trip to Columbus and last weekend’s freezing conditions in Commerce City against the Quakes.
“It really is three weeks in a row now,” Larentowicz told MLSsoccer.com this week. “It will be a little different in Toronto, a bit wet. Certainly not something Dallas have been used to.”