Colorado Rapids 2 v MNUFC2
Denver Soccer Stadium | Denver, Colorado
09.24.2023 | MLS NEXT Pro Game No. 28
4:00 p.m. CT | Streaming on AppleTV’s MLS Season Pass
Following their dramatic 3-2 victory over Sporting KC II last weekend, MNUFC2’s playoff decision was delayed to Decision Day, MLS NEXT Pro style. It’s a veritable Resolution Rodeo on matchday 28, with seven teams still waiting to see if their seasons will go on past this Sunday.
In the West, it’s Houston, San Jose, and MNUFC2 fighting for the final two playoff spots. In the East, Chicago, NYCFC, Philadelphia, and Hunstsville are battling it out for two spots as well. After 27 gritty games spread across a whirlwind season, the playoffs are within touching distance for each of these sides, but one last test remains.
The final hurdle for the Loons is Colorado Rapids 2, the top team in the conference and currently tied for the most points in the entirety of MLS NEXT Pro with 63. They’ve been a tough team to beat all year, winning 18 matches, drawing five, and earning a shootout victory in four of those five. They’re the highest scoring team in the league this year with 66 goals, earning an impressive +31 goal difference. No matter how you slice it, these guys are good.
The Loons only need a single point to control their own destiny. Otherwise, a San Jose loss or Houston failing to win would clinch a playoff spot for Cameron Knowles’ side. No one wants to make the playoffs off of another team’s failure, though. Following last Saturday’s win, Coach Knowles was already prepared for a fight with a talented Rapids 2 side.
“We will do the same thing we do every week,” he said of this weekend’s game. “We’ll reflect on this one and prepare for the next. Colorado Rapids 2 are by far the best team in our conference and probably in the league, and it’s a difficult place to play. There’s no better way, I don’t think, than to play them at the end of the season and get us ready. If we take care of business, we get ourselves in the playoffs, and then we’ve taken care of four really good teams on the way in. I think that gives us a lot of momentum heading into the postseason.”
First-teamer Emmanuel Iwe has come alive in the latter stages of the MNUFC2 season, bagging three goals in the last four games. His attacking prowess, paired with the equally essential contributions of teammates Kameron Lacey and Juan Mosquera, has helped the Loons secure seven points during their three-game unbeaten run. Maintaining that streak in Denver would mean guaranteeing a playoff berth and giving the Twos a whole lot of positive momentum as they push on into the postseason.
As far as the Rapids are concerned, there’s not much left to play for. They’ve already secured a first-round bye, though they are currently tied with the Eastern Conference’s Crown Legacy FC for the regular season title. If they can summon the spirit they’ve shown all season, they’re going to be tough to beat. Motivation often dictates performance, and the Loons will have undeniably potent motivation fueling their performance: the desire to keep their season alive.
The season is on the line from here on out; it’s time for MNUFC2 to show what they’re made of. Sunday’s crucial matchup is scheduled to kick off at 4:00 p.m. CT, with streaming available via AppleTV’s MLS Season Pass.