COLORADO RAPIDS vs. MINNESOTA UNITED
ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex | Orlando, Florida
07.22.2020 | MLS Is Back Tournament| Group Stage Game No. 3
9:30 p.m. CT (ESPN, MNUFC Radio on SKOR North)
Although Minnesota United couldn’t secure another three points for the fourth straight time this season, Sunday’s scoreless draw against Real Salt Lake is a result they will live with. The Loons’ average of 2.5 points per game has them atop the Western Conference and with a clear path to the Knockout Round of the MLS Is Back Tournament. While the team still soldiers on without Ike Opara, they welcomed back captain Osvaldo Alonso and forward Luis Amarilla’s minutes towards the end of the last game show he should be ready to go. Colorado will be missing its own captain, Jack Price, as well as defender Danny Wilson after a pair of red cards in its game against SKC. The Rapids might be all but eliminated from the tournament, but if Columbus should falter against Atlanta, Minnesota has the chance to take the lead in the Supporters’ Shield race, so expect the Loons to go hard for the W in this one.
The Highlight Zone ⤵️ pic.twitter.com/ZjE5PnLwQD— Minnesota United FC (@MNUFC) July 18, 2020
After opening the season with back-to-back wins, Colorado came into the MLS Is Back Tournament with momentum and a sense that its straightforward, defend-and-counter style could pay dividends in a tournament format as teams shook off the rust of a long layoff. It hasn’t exactly panned out that way for the Rapids so far after the team went down 2-0 to Real Salt Lake in its opening game and then narrowly missed out on a valiant draw after going down two men to Sporting KC when Graham Zusi scored a stoppage time heartbreaker to make it 3-2. But don’t expect Colorado to go gently into that good night with regular season results on the line. The Rapids have historically fared well against the Loons, winning three and with Minnesota’s two wins coming at home and ending as 1-0 affairs. Facing the prospect of another long layoff before the regular season begins to take shape, Head Coach Robin Fraser will likely be pushing all of his chips in on Wednesday night.
CHASE GASPER ON JOSE AJA
“Jose is incredible. I mean first off, he’s one of the nicest, greatest people I’ve ever met. I think that speaks volume to his character and personality but on the field he’s been fantastic. He’s a no nonsense defender, he’s broken up a lot of plays, stopped a lot of dangerous counterattacks from the other team and I think he’s been a huge help to our team. He’s done a great job filling in for Ike. I think the defense and the entire team is getting a big boost from him.”
ADRIAN HEATH ON GETTING THE SEASON’S FIRST SHUTOUT
“The one thing I expect out of all the games is our willingness to defend. I don’t just mean the back four, I mean the four up front and the two up top. They’ve shown a great appetite for the hard work and in these conditions, it’s been terrific to see. We put video together of people running back 60 yards just to get back to the goal side of the ball and in these conditions, that’s not easy to do. Their attitude to making tough decisions where I’m going to have to make the effort to get back and help the team out has been fantastic.”MORE
Loons Love the Water Part II pic.twitter.com/avhuwQiKUs— Minnesota United FC (@MNUFC) July 20, 2020
With Kevin Molino leaving the game against RSL at the half and his status up in the air, it will be worth watching out for how Head Coach Adrian Heath adjusts his lineup if Molino can't go on Wednesday. Thomas Chacon came in for the second half, moving Robin Lod to the #10 position and slotting in on the left wing. Will Chacon start? Or will we see a formation shift with Hassani Dotson coming into the midfield to make it a 4-3-3? It's a move Heath has not hesitated to make in the past and with Minnesota's berth largely secured, a more conservative formation could help preserve players' energy for the upcoming Round of 16.
Kei Kamara has played with many MNUFC players in his career. He played the 2013 season with Ike Opara on SKC. He was a teammate of Ethan Finlay’s on Crew SC from 2015 through 2016, and played with Jose Aja for the Vancouver Whitecaps in 2018.
MATCH PREVIEW SHOW: KEI KAMARA