After having its 11-game unbeaten streak snapped by FC Dallas on Saturday, Minnesota United rebounded with a thrilling 1-0 win over the visiting Colorado Rapids in front of a raucous Allianz Field crowd. With no shortage of attacking chances, a Darwin Quintero goal in the 39th minute held as the game-winning goal for Minnesota United after another clean sheet and a solid defensive performance. The victory marked the Loons 12th MLS win of the season and pushed them over the 40-point mark, both firsts in club history.
“The crowd were magnificent again,” said Head Coach Adrian Heath. “They've been unbelievable since we've opened this place. I always talk to the players before the game about, we need to keep the crowd, the supporters involved in the game. The way that we do that is by playing on the front foot, playing in their half, working the goalkeeper, getting the ball in the box, endeavor, running forward. When you look back at the game and the chances that we've had, that should not have been the case. We've defended really well, in it as a group and there's one or two of the defenders who were outstanding.”
The Loons wasted no time in shrugging off the disappointing 5-3 loss that came at the hands of Dallas. An early diagonal run from Darwin Quintero in the first minute of the game opened a pocket of space for the midfielder. Quintero performed a lovely pirouette turn and rolled a well-weighted pass to the cutting Kevin Molino. Twisting and turning his body, Molino attempted to cross the ball but couldn’t muster enough power on the ball as his attempted cross flew into the hands of Colorado’s goalkeeper, Clint Irwin.
The early foray from the Minnesota United attack set a precedent for the one-way traffic that was to come as the Loons continually attacked on the front foot and Colorado sat back in a defensive shape. Applying more offensive pressure, the home side earned a pair of corner kicks in the 17th and 18th minute. First, an Ike Opara header was deflected over the Colorado crossbar and then a Michael Boxall header was cleared off the line by Colorado’s Kei Kamara.
Emboldened by the early chances, Minnesota’s attacking quartet of Angelo Rodriguez, Darwin Quintero, Robin Lod and Kevin Molino, which had looked so fluid and creative against the Portland Timbers, began to carve out chance after chance for the home side.
The creative play of Minnesota’s attackers allowed some of their fellow Loons to get involved going forward. Jan Gregus, who sat just behind Quintero, had the green light throughout the first half as he peppered Clint Irwin’s goal with a multitude of shots from distance. Both of Minnesota’s fullbacks, Chase Gasper and Romain Metanire, also got in on the act, looking to exploit the flanks of the Rapids, who looked very vulnerable out wide.
The Loons first capitalized on Colorado’s vulnerabilities in the 36th minute when Chase Gasper made an impressive interception on an attempted pass from Kei Kamara. As Gasper began to dribble forwards, he spotted the run of Angelo Rodriguez and sent a curling through ball behind the Colorado defense. Latching onto the ball, Rodriguez passed the ball off to Kevin Molino who recognized that the fullback had continued his run and whipped a dangerous cross into the Colorado penalty area looking for the head of Gasper. Attempting to get on the end of the ball, Gasper was awarded a penalty kick as the referee ruled that he had been fouled as he went for the cross.
As he had done so just one week ago against the Portland Timbers, Darwin Quintero stepped up to the spot looking to open the scoring for the Loons. Unfortunately, Quintero’s spot kick was denied by Clint Irwin as the midfielder didn’t seem to catch the ball with enough power.
In the next passage of play in the 39th minute, Quintero made amends for his missed penalty kick. Kevin Molino spotted the run of Quintero and rolled a through ball into the path of the Colombian, who held his run just long enough to remain onside. Making no mistake this time, Quintero calmly slotted the ball between the legs of Clint Irwin to open the scoring for Minnesota United. The opening goal took the sides into the break with the Loons holding a 1-0 lead.
As they so often do, Minnesota United came out of the locker room hungry for more. Rodriguez should have doubled Minnesota’s lead when he found himself unmarked seven yards from the Colorado goal in the 49th minute. Kevin Molino picked out the head of Rodriguez with an early cross but the Colombian was unable to steer his effort on target as his attempt flew harmlessly out of play.
Against the run of play, the Rapids came inches from equalizing in the 50th minute when they almost executed on one of their strengths – set pieces. Colorado’s Diego Rubio was left unmarked on a corner kick and a flicked header was almost bundled home by the midfielder.
Looking increasingly dangerous from set pieces, the Rapids threatened again in the 65th minute when a corner kick – cleared by Minnesota – fell to the feet of a trailing Sam Nicholson. The former Minnesota United midfielder took the ball in stride and sent a driven shot which flashed just wide of Mannone’s goal to preserve Minnesota’s slim 1-0 lead.
Looking to stop the Rapids from gaining a foothold in the game, Adrian Heath subbed on the duo of Abu Danladi and Ethan Finlay in the 71st minute. Heath has often chosen to bring on his pacey attackers to inject energy into games where the momentum seems to be shifting towards the opposing team.
Just seven minutes later, a chance did indeed present itself to Abu Danladi when Jan Gregus’ left-footed cross found the forward’s head on Colorado’s back post. With the ball coming in at an awkward height, Danladi couldn’t make a great connection on his header and his effort glanced agonizingly off the Colorado crossbar and out of play.
“He got in the right spots,” said Heath when asked about Danladi’s performance. “When your confidence is a bit low, he's not as confident in himself and his body as he would like, but I tell you, the kid got in the right spot so if he continues to get in the right spots, eventually one will go for him and hopefully his confidence will come.”
The Loons continued to threaten in the final 10 minutes of play as they looked to score the second goal that had eluded them all night. Ike Opara saw his header from a Jan Gregus corner kick parried out of play by Clint Irwin in the 84th minute. This time, Osvaldo Alonso checked in for a short corner kick which caught the Rapids off guard. Alonso passed off to Gregus who swung in a right-footed cross that found its way into the Colorado net via a Robin Lod redirection. Wheeling away in celebration, Lod was convinced that he had scored his first Minnesota United goal but the strike was chalked off as the Finnish midfielder was ruled offside.
After 90 rugged minutes of play and four minutes of stoppage time, the referee’s whistle brought the game to a close. Darwin Quintero’s first half goal was all that the Loons needed on the night to secure another important three points in a tight Western Conference playoff race.
“We've put ourselves in a good spot,” said Heath. “We're at that stage of the season now. Whoever you play, there's something to play for. I look at our fixtures and everybody's playing for something. Next week we go to Sporting. Huge for them, they need to keep it alive. We're getting no easy games between now and the end of the season, that's for sure. We've got to be prepared.”
The Loons are back in action this Saturday, August 17 as Orlando City SC makes its first visit to Allianz Field in a game presented by Allina Heath. Kickoff is scheduled for 7:00 p.m. CT with pregame coverage beginning at 6:30 p.m. on FOX Sports North+, streaming on FOX Sports GO and on MNUFC Radio on SKOR North.
Minnesota United FC Starting XI: GK Vito Mannone; D Romain Metanire, Ike Opara, Michael Boxall, Chase Gasper; M Jan Gergus, Osvaldo Alonso, Kevin Molino (Ethan Finlay 71’), Robin Lod, Darwin Quintero (Hassani Dotson 79’); F Angelo Rodriguez (Abu Danladi 71’)
MIN Unused Subs: GK Dayne St. Clair; D Brent Kallman; M Lawrence Olum, Miguel Ibarra
Colorado Rapids Starting XI: GK Clint Irwin; D Keegan Rosenberry, Lalas Abubakar, Sam Vines, Tommy Smith; M Danny Wilson (Andre Shinyashiki 80’), Diego Rubio (Nicolas Mezquida 67’), Jonathan Lewis, Kellyn Acosta, Sam Nicholson; F Kei Kamara
COL Unused Subs: GK Andre Rawls; D Kofi Opare, Sebastian Anderson; M Cole Bassett, Dillon Serna
39’ – Quintero (Molino) – MIN
45’ – Acosta (YC) – COL
60’ – Gasper (YC) – MIN
83’ – Boxall (YC) – MIN