With significant absences from international call-ups all over the field, including midfielders Jan Gregus, Kevin Molino — who scored his first goal last week — and Romain Metanire, Minnesota headed to Colorado to face the Rapids. While they dominated possession and got yeoman’s work out of midfielder Lawrence Olum and the first minutes of the season for rookie Chase Gasper, the Loons could not trouble the Rapids defense or goalkeeper Tim Howard. In the end, MNUFC would concede a goal in the 29th minute and lose 1-0.
"It’s an issue for us,” said Head Coach Adrian Heath when asked about the lack of scoring. “It is. I don’t know how many crosses we put into the box again this evening but we don’t have anybody on the end of them. I was frustrated tonight – and this is not being disrespectful to Colorado – but I think if we’d had played as well as we can and taken the initiative, even taken the game to them, I think there would have been something in this game for us. Second half, we upped our level and we got a little bit more anger in our play and a little more drive and we looked as we were in control of the game. We’ve had to go a goal down to really start to get going again and you can’t do that, especially on the road.”
In the game’s opening minutes, Minnesota established possession in the middle of the park and built from there, showing an ability to press and win the ball back in Colorado’s half. Midfielder Darwin Quintero ranged far and wide to either side at the very top of the final third, finding the ball and working to send in diagonal balls onto the feet of forward Angelo Rodriguez. Opportunities got blocked or else came to nothing in the end and after the first 15 minutes, it seemed to breed a bit too much contentment for the visitors.
Colorado jumped on those hints of lassitude from Minnesota and began to force the issue farther up the field. In the 19th minute they earned their first corner kick after midfielder Andre Shinyashiki fired in a cross from the left wing that defender Ike Opara sent over the endline. It was the first hint of offensive verve from the home side and 10 minutes later, they cashed it in.
In the 29th minute, defender Brent Kallman was forced into a bit of last-ditch defending when he ended up down in Minnesota’s box and then having to leap up to challenge a Colorado attacker. He sent the ball out for a corner kick. Off of midfielder Jack Price’s outswinging delivery, forward Kei Kamara skied over Opara and smashed a header past goalkeeper Vito Mannone and into the upper left of the net to give the Rapids a 1-0 lead.
“You’ve got probably one of the best headers of the ball in MLS history standing in the middle of the goal free and we’ve got nine men back in there,” said Heath. “So no, it’s not good enough. People have their job, people are designated to mark people and if somebody jumps over the top of you and beats you, then it’s okay. But a free header, no it’s not acceptable.”
In the wake of the goal, Minnesota seemed stumped about exactly how to proceed in attack. With none of the Loons’ front four looking particularly dangerous, a renewed dominance in possession came to little over the final 15 minutes. MNUFC headed into the tunnel with 59% possession but no shots on target and an irate Heath who demanded more urgency and anger from his side at the halftime interview.
The story of the second half was Heath’s attempts to wring something out of the game with a raft of early subs. In the 57th minute, defender Chase Gasper got his first MLS minutes, subbing in for Michael Boxall and taking over left back duties for fellow rookie Hassani Dotson, who slid over to right back. The move allowed the Loons to push forward much deeper down both wings and certainly put the home side under more pressure.
Minutes later, forward Abu Danladi came on for Ethan Finlay on the right wing, likely with an eye towards providing more speed and pace down that side of the pitch. That substitution was followed in short order by Heath third and final one, which brought on midfielder Collin Martin — who has been on loan with USL’s Hartford Athletic — for Osvaldo Alonso. The captain’s armband was handed off from Alonso to Quintero.
The moves certainly provided a different look in attack for the Loons and they produced more opportunities, but just as many goals. For their part, Colorado was quite content to sit on the ball and do as much as they could to waste time whenever a player went down or the ball went out of bounds. MNUFC ended up relying predominantly on service on long through balls from Opara and Olum — who looked good overall in his debut — and there wasn’t enough movement in the box to produce a goal. Despite dominating possession 62% to 38%, Minnesota could only get two shots on target on the evening and fell 1-0 to the Rapids.
“At this moment in time, I think we are what we are, this is what we’ve got,” said Heath. “We’ve got a transfer window coming up and we’re hoping we can add one or two pieces to this because I don’t feel as if we are far away from having a really good team. I think at times we show that we can move the ball around and can dictate the tempo of the game, which we’ve done for large periods of the second half but we were just one decent quality ball or one little bit of anger for somebody to go and get on the end of something. I don’t think we had enough of that this evening.”
Minnesota United’s next game is a matchup with Sporting Kansas City in the Fourth Round of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup on Wednesday, June 12 at Allianz Field at 7:00 p.m. CT. The game can be streamed on ESPN+.
Minnesota United FC Starting XI: GK Vito Mannone; D Michael Boxall (Chase Gasper 57’), Ike Opara, Brent Kallman, Hassani Dotson; M Lawrence Olum, Osvaldo Alonso (Collin Martin 66’), Ethan Finlay (Abu Danladi 64’), Miguel Ibarra, Darwin Quintero; F Angelo Rodriguez
MIN Unused Subs: GK Dayne St. Clair; D Eric Miller, Wyatt Omsberg; F Mason Toye
Colorado Rapids Starting XI: GK Tim Howard; D Keegan Rosenberry, Lalas Abubakar, Sam Vines, Tommy Smith; M Andre Shinyashiki (Nicolas Mezquida 67’), Cole Bassett (Johan Blomberg 73’), Jack Price (Danny Wilson 82’), Kellyn Acosta, Sam Nicholson; F Kei Kamara
COL Unused Subs: GK Clink Irwin; D Axel Sjoberg, Sebastian Anderson; M Dillon Serna
29’ – Kamara (Price) – COL
26’ – Shinyashiki (YC) – COL
69’ – Gasper (YC) – MIN
78’ – Quintero (YC) – MIN
90+1’ – Mezquida (YC) – COL
90+5’ – Acosta (YC) – COL