COLORADO RAPIDS vs. MINNESOTA UNITED FC
Dick’s Sporting Goods Park | Commerce City, Colorado
06.08.2019 | MLS Week No. 15 | MLS Game No. 16
8:00 p.m. CT (FOX Sports North, FOX Sports GO, MNUFC Radio on SKOR North)
COL: 3-9-3, 2-4-2 at home
MIN: 6-6-3, 3-5-0 on the road
Minnesota United travels to Colorado following a frustrating Sunday game against Philadelphia in which the Loons took 29 shots, scored only twice, and were downed 3-2 by a late Auston Trusty goal. The Loons visit Dick’s Sporting Goods Park to square off against the Colorado Rapids, who currently sit at the bottom of the Western Conference. The Rapids have begun to heat up in their last four games, though, winning three and stealing a point in a 1-1 draw against Philadelphia on the road. MNUFC will miss Jan Gregus, Rasmus Schuller, Romain Metanire and Kevin Molino, who have been called up to represent their respective national teams. Facing key absences, playing at altitude and a recently in-form Rapids side, the Loons will rely on the veteran leadership of Osvaldo Alonso and the emergence of young players like Hassani Dotson to get a crucial three points on the road.
The game kicks off at 8:00 p.m. CT with pregame coverage beginning at 7:30 p.m. on FOX Sports North, streaming on FOX Sports GO and on MNUFC Radio on SKOR North.
Despite the defeat, the Loons created some of their most formidable and decisive attacking play to date against Philadelphia. Of Minnesota’s 29 shots, 15 were blocked by the last ditch defending of the Union — a performance that Head Coach Adrian Heath called “defending of the highest order” in his postgame press conference. Hassani Dotson, making just his third MLS start, was a catalyst for much of the dangerous MNUFC attack. He kept the Philadelphia defense guessing, using his speed to get to the byline and deliver accurate crosses into the penalty box on his weaker left foot. He mixed it up too, cutting inside on his right foot and threatening to shoot or switch the point of attack by sending early, in-swinging crosses to the Union back post. The hard work paid off as Dotson scored his first MLS goal to tie the game at 1-1 in the 28th minute.
With the home side trailing 2-1 in the 69th minute, Kevin Molino and Abu Danladi were subbed on by Heath to inject energy into a leggy MNUFC side. Just eight minutes later, the two substitutes combined to draw the Loons level. In the end, completely against the run of play, Union center back Auston Trusty took advantage of a lapse of judgement by Brent Kallman to score the winning goal in the 86th minute.
“I’m proud of the players. I thought they were magnificent,” said Heath at the time. “Some of our play was outstanding. We’ve been talking about taking our opportunities when they come. Somebody just said it’s the most shots for 10 years in MLS. Hey, a little bit of a percentage of that, we would have been probably clear. But I’m not going to let that mask what was an outstanding performance on the back of the shift that the guys did in Atlanta. There was some fantastic performances. I thought Hassani Dotson was fantastic again. Ike Opera was good. The two center midfield players were excellent. There’s been a lot of positives tonight.”
For Dotson, who had just scored his first career goal, it was a tough loss to take given the excellent performance the Loons had just put in.
“It was a nice moment but it doesn’t feel good today because we lost. I thought that everyone put in a shift and we were unlucky not to get three points.”
Even Kevin Molino, who had just scored his first goal since returning from injury, had difficulty celebrating given the disappointing circumstances.
“For me, the goal is good, confidence wise. But there’s no better feeling than getting three points, especially when we’ve been doing well. Yes, I’m happy to score but very disappointed [in the end]. In football, it’s almost impossible to get 29 shots and not win a game. The good thing is that we are getting the chances, the bad thing is, we are not [finishing] our chances. So now that we are getting the chances, we have to put them away.”
With an attack that is starting to create more and more each game, look for MNUFC to use the trip to bottom-of-the-table Colorado as a major confidence booster. The Loons have dropped their last three games away from home, so Saturday’s test against the Rapids presents a great chance for MNUFC to rebound and jumpstart its away form. This week in training, a pragmatic Adrian Heath noted the recent change in form that Colorado has experienced compared to their slow start to the 2019 MLS season.
“Sometimes you don’t realize and you don’t know what the change around is caused by,” he said. “But sometimes it’s just a different voice, you get a result on the road that you probably didn’t deserve … Did they deserve to win at Galaxy? Maybe not. But they end up winning the game and from that the confidence grows. Then they start to win another game at home and suddenly four games in, you’ve won three and drawn one, everybody is playing with a smile on their face, the supporters are coming to the game and they’re enjoying the football again. We’ve got to go there playing with the same confidence that we did on Saturday. And, if we do, we are going to have a good opportunity of winning the game.”
The road to Colorado does present some ominous obstacles for the Loons, including playing at a higher altitude than the one they’re accustomed to. With the average elevation in Colorado standing at 6,800 feet, compared to 1,200 feet in Minnesota, fitness levels will play a role in the type of performance MNUFC puts in. Veteran midfielder Osvaldo Alonso, who is no stranger to playing in Colorado, was wary of the challenges that playing at a higher altitude present.
“It’s tough playing out there, we know the altitude can affect us but I think if we prepare ourselves well, psychologically we know we can win,” he said. “I’ve had the opportunity to play many years [in Colorado] and if we play good soccer, a good game, keeping the ball, with our potential, we can win the game. We know it’s tough but it’s not impossible. We’re going looking for three points.”
Leading Colorado’s line is veteran Kei Kamara, who is fifth all-time in goals scored in the MLS. Kamara’s tall figure is particularly lethal in the air, as Heath noted.
“You’re not as big as Kei and as athletic as him, not to be a handful,” he said. “He’s got a great leap, athletically, [and he] leads the line really well. He’s been a top-drawer professional in this league so I don’t expect anything different of him then to be a big handful this weekend.”
While Colorado will only be missing recent acquisition Jonathan Lewis, who is playing with the USMNT, Minnesota will be without Jan Gregus, Rasmus Schuller, Romain Metanire and Kevin Molino, many of whom have become regular fixtures in the Loons’ starting lineup. Young players like Hassani Dotson will be expected to step up in their absence and fill the temporary void. Dotson responded confidently when asked about how this weekend’s squad will respond to the absence of four first teamers:
“Everyone here has very good qualities on the pitch. Those guys will be missed but I think that if we just work hard and do what the coach asks us, we will get three points.”
Minnesota United’s next game is on Wednesday, June 12 in U.S. Open Cup action against Sporting Kansas City at Allianz Field at 7:00 p.m. CT. The game can be streamed on ESPN+.
Minnesota United FC
- OUT: GK – Bobby Shuttleworth (right knee)
- QUESTIONABLE: D – Carter Manley (left leg)
- OUT: D – Kortne Ford (knee surgery)
- QUESTIONABLE: F – Jonathan Lewis (hamstring)
- UNDISCLOSED: D – Deklan Wynne
- The first game for the Minnesota United Unified Team presented by Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota will be played against Colorado’s Unified Team directly following the first team game. The second game of the Unified Team’s season will be when Colorado travels to Minnesota to play the Loons at Allianz Field on August 14.
- This is Minnesota’s first meeting with Colorado in 2019. The game was originally scheduled for July 17, but was rescheduled ahead of opening day.
- Hassani Dotson scored his first professional goal last week against the Philadelphia Union.
- Kevin Molino got his first goal of 2019 last game as well. It was his first goal since March 10, 2018 when he suffered a season-ending ACL tear against Orlando City SC.
- The two goals were the first time the Loons have scored multiple goals in a game since April 19, a 4-3 road loss to Toronto FC.
- The Loons took a club record 29 shots against Philadelphia.
- Miguel Ibarra set a new club record with 5,418 minutes played in MLS. He also holds the appearances record, taking the field 74 times since 2017.
- Minnesota has now suffered back-to-back losses for the second time this year, just after getting back-to-back wins for the second time.
- The Loons conceded just their second penalty of the season last game. The last time a team went to the spot against MNUFC was against LA Galaxy on March 16.
- The Loons have scored two goals in each of their previous trips to Dick’s Sporting Goods Park.
- Minnesota and Colorado were included in the same region for the U.S. Open Cup’s Fourth Round draw. The Loons drew Sporting Kansas City, while the Rapids will face the USL Championship’s New Mexico United.
- Colorado started the 2019 season with a 11-game winless streak, going 0-9-2 in that stretch. The Rapids are 3-0-1 in their last four games.
- Conor Casey assumed the interim Head Coach role for the Rapids on May 1, 2019 after Anthony Hudson was relieved of duties. Hudson had a career record of 8-26-9 with the team.
- Casey played for the Rapids from 2007 though 2012. He made 123 MLS appearances for Colorado, scoring 52 goals.
- Four MNUFC players will be unavailable for this game after being called up for international duty with their respective national teams: Jan Gregus (Slovakia), Romain Metanire (Madagascar), Molino (Trinidad and Tobago) and Rasmus Schuller (Finland).
- Both Saint Paul and Denver will be host cities for the upcoming 2019 Gold Cup. Minnesota’s Allianz Field will be one of the venues. However, Bronco’s Stadium at Mile High will host in Denver, rather than the Rapids’ Dick’s Sporting Goods Park.
- The Loons claimed their first-ever MLS point while playing against the Rapids. The teams came to a 2-2 draw back on March 18, 2017.
- Sam Nicholson played for MNUFC during the 2017 and 2018 seasons before being traded to the Rapids in a deal involving Eric Miller.
- Mason Toye and Tim Howard are both from New Jersey. Toye was born in South Orange, just 30 miles from Howard’s hometown of North Brunswick.
- Michael Boxall, Tommy Smith and Deklan Wynne are members of the New Zealand national team.
- Nana Boateng graduated from the Right to Dream Academy in Ghana, where he and Abu Danladi played until 2011.
- Kofi Opare and Collin Martin were both in the D.C. United organization from 2014 though 2016.
- Lalas Abubakar played with Ethan Finlay for the first part of the 2017 season on Columbus Crew SC, before Finlay was traded to Minnesota.
- Diego Rubio and Ike Opara were teammates on Sporting Kansas City from 2016 though 2018. Lawrence Olum joined the duo for the 2016 season.
- Kei Kamara has played with many MNUFC players in his career. He played the 2013 season with Opara and Olum on SKC. He was a teammate of Finlay’s on Crew SC from 2015 through 2016, before moving to New England Revolution to join Bobby Shuttleworth for the tail end of 2016.