Match Preview: Minnesota United vs. Colorado Rapids
There are no shortcuts to match sharpness but the Colorado Rapids are 90 minutes closer after their loss in Kansas City at the weekend and Minnesota United are aware of that prior to their midweek meeting, writes Richard Fleming.
It was clear early on in Saturday’s heavy defeat at SKC that the Rapids had been deprived of a competitive game in more than four weeks. Passing was erratic, movement was labored, match fitness not where they would like it, and the energy and aggression seen during their fine run prior to the latest lockdown not so evident.
Head coach Robin Fraser said: “We will have to look to quickly get sharp because we were - as a friend of mine used to say - sharp as a bowling ball on the weekend, so we definitely need to sharpen up on a few things by the time Wednesday rolls around.”
All was to be expected. Yes, their rivals had been zigzagging across the country playing games, sometimes as often as every three or four days, while the Rapids overcame a Covid-19 outbreak, but Sporting KC had not played in a week and were both match fit and rested.
Early team news suggests each side may be without key components. Kellyn Acosta, who missed the loss last time out due to suspension, may not feature as he is nursing an unspecified injury. With Collen Warner having limped out of Saturday’s game with a hamstring injury, that means Nicolas Mezquida is likely to start only his second match of 2020.
Minnesota, meanwhile, will have to face the Rapids without new signing Kei Kamara. His absence is due to what Adrian Heath, the Loons’ head coach, described as a ‘gentlemen’s agreement’ between Minnesota and Colorado as part of the trade deal back in September.
A second game without Acosta will take some adjustment. Prior to his suspension, the 25-year-old had started all 13 of the Rapids’ games. Only Andre Shinyashiki (14) had taken more shots on goal than Acosta (10), whose engine in the midfield has been a significant factor in their pressing, aggressive style of play.
Kamara was brought in to try and improve Minnesota’s attacking threat. They have faded in the second half of the season when it comes to goals. Though are unbeaten in five games, they have just eight goals in their last eight games. Compare that to 21 in their opening 10.
At home, the Loons are solid. Their only home defeat this season came in their first match back after the Orlando tournament, when they were edged 2-1 by Sporting KC. They have since gone 3-0-2 at Allianz Field.
Heath has been in charge since day one in MLS, and though their first two seasons were difficult – conceding 70-plus goals in both 2017 and 2018 – the former Orlando head coach has gradually turned things around. The Loons qualified for the playoffs last season, finishing fourth in the West, and are on course to be a part of the postseason in 2020.
For their part, the Rapids will have taken stock in the aftermath of the SKC defeat and will look to iron out some of those creases on Wednesday night. The 4-0 scoreline from Children’s Mercy Park may not have been so damning were it not for heavy legs late on.
And the team will know that the one defeat, as uncomfortable as it was, has not severely impacted their postseason plans. A win on Wednesday and they would climb to ninth in the standings based upon points. Amid reports of MLS determining playoff positions using points per game, a win midweek could lift the Rapids as high as fifth. The top eight continue beyond the end of the regular season.
“The guys are ready to go,” stressed Fraser. “They didn’t like the way they played (last Saturday), aren’t happy with the way they played, and are just looking to right the wrong.”
Join Richard Fleming and Marcelo Balboa this Wednesday from 5.30pm on Altitude and AltitudeNOW for coverage of Minnesota United FC vs. Colorado Rapids.