• TURNAROUND, BRIGHT EYES: As evidenced by the results since he’s taken the helm, Colorado Rapids Head Coach Robin Fraser is exactly the kind of coach the team needed at exactly the right time. In 2019, the Rapids were trying to pull off the monumental task of transitioning the franchise out of the Tim Howard era and into whatever came next. Anthony Hudson’s disastrous tenure as head coach (8-26-9) came to an end midway through the season following remarks where he bemoaned the lack of marquee players on the team and the overall poor quality of the roster. Following Conor Casey’s interim tenure, Fraser was brought in from Toronto FC and sparked an immediate three-game win streak and won five of their last seven, narrowly missing the playoffs with a roster not that much different from the one Hudson had whinged about. In 2020, Colorado finished fifth in the Western Conference, only to be brought low by Minnesota United in the Round One at Allianz Field. This year, they’re a top three team in the conference and look pretty comfortable there — certainly more comfortable than the sagging LA Galaxy did. Fraser has molded a roster founded on the steady hand of captain and holding midfielder Jack Price into a fun, exciting side packed with young talent from Cole Bassett to Jonathan Lewis to recent international signing Lucas Esteves. The Rapids will come into this week’s matchup in Saint Paul not only with the goal of solidifying that homefield advantage in Round One this year, but also looking for a bit of payback for their ignominious exit last year at the hands of the Loons.
  • OKAY LADIES NOW LET'S GET IN FORMATION: It’s hard to overstate how much is riding on the appeal of Emanuel Reynoso’s late red card in the game against FC Dallas. While it might be a bit much to say Reynoso is the make-or-break player for the starting XI — the Loons have also struggled at times without the services of leading scorer Robin Lod, defensive stalwarts Osvaldo Alonso and Bakaye Dibassy and have not, thus far, had to do without goalkeeper Tyler Miller — he is without a doubt the cog that makes the attacking end of the machine go. Given that MNUFC will be without Lod as well as defenders Michael Boxall and Romain Metanire due to international duty, missing Reynoso if the suspension holds is perilously close to a dealbreaker, ladies. Head Coach Adrian Heath will already have to juggle the lineup, so without Reynoso, it’s not impossible we see Adrien Hunou in a #10/false #9 role in Reynoso’s customary position with Fanendo Adi up top. DJ Taylor could slot in for Metanire, or it's possible that Hassani Dotson could return and take that role. Brent Kallman will likely once again step in for Boxall on the backline. Whichever team ends up taking the pitch on Sunday, the job is crystal clear at this point in the season: Home games have to end with three points for MNUFC. Anything less and the Loons could find themselves with a homefield advantage based on how close the snacks are to the TV.
  • HEY NOW, YOU'RE HOSTING ALL-STAR: It may have been a foregone conclusion that the MLS All-Star Game would come to Allianz Field at some point, based simply on the praise lavished on the building by everyone from commentators to MLS Commissioner Don Garber since it opened in 2019. Nevertheless, the official announcement on Tuesday that one of the league’s biggest events would be coming to the Midway neighborhood in August of 2022 brought a shot of excitement to the team and the Twin Cities soccer community. While the format isn’t set, the fireworks from this season’s matchup between the MLS All-Stars and the Liga MX All-Stars, which ended in a penalty shootout won by the MLS side, augur good things for the future. The bigger news for the local community will likely be the events leading up to the game itself, including community initiatives, concerts and a spotlight on Minnesota, Saint Paul and the Midway neighborhood. As an exhibition match, the game holds little significance in and of itself beyond bragging rights and entertainment, but as an event, it’s certainly one that can have ripple effects for years when it comes to the club itself and soccer fans here.