Preview | #MINvCOL

Preview | #MINvCOL

MINNESOTA UNITED FC vs. COLORADO RAPIDS
Allianz Field | Saint Paul, Minnesota
11.22.2020 | Audi 2020 MLS Cup Playoffs | Round One
6:30 p.m. CT (ESPN, MNUFC Radio on SKOR North)

2020 Records:
COL: 8-6-4 (5-3-1 on the road)
MIN: 9-5-7 (5-1-3 at home)

Minnesota United return for the second straight year to the playoffs, once again in the fourth seed, but this time hosting a scrappy, surging Colorado Rapids side instead of Zlatan Ibrahimovic and a star-laden Galaxy. Last year’s playoff disappointment against LA still stings and the Loons will be squarely focused on improving on last year’s finish — a tremendous feat given all that’s happened in 2020 between disruptions from the pandemic and rampant injuries. The big question mark for MNUFC will be the availability of four key players who headed out for international duty over the break: midfielders Jan Gregus and Robin Lod, defender Romain Metanire and forward Kei Kamara. All of them — save perhaps Kamara — have played key roles at different times this season and Kamara is a veteran scorer they went out and got to help in exactly this kind of high stakes game. MLS has announced that it will allow charter flights for players on international duty so they won’t have to quarantine, which should make the aforementioned players available for Sunday. Whatever the case, though, the team has been through the wringer enough times in 2020 to understand the “next man up” ethos. Whoever makes it into the starting XI on Sunday will be ready to tangle.

THE OPPOSITION
Much the same as last year, Colorado finished out the season strong, going 3-0-0 and grabbing six points from second and third seeds Seattle and Portland in the process. The Rapids will relish the role of darkhorse in the postseason, having suffered through an early season swoon that saw them bow out of the MLS Is Back Tournament without a win. At first, their position in the playoffs was only secured through the change to points per game instead of straight points as the arbiter of the table but by the time the smoke had cleared on Decision Day, the Rapids had risen from seventh to fifth. Led by the steady hand of Jack Price in midfield and the playmaking of Younes Namli and Cole Bassett on either side of him, Colorado has depth across the roster if not star power, getting important contributions from everyone from defender Lalas Abubakar to forward Diego Rubio. With everything to play for and nothing to lose, count on Colorado to mount a stiff challenge on the road in the first round.

EMANUEL REYNOSO ON WHAT TO EXPECT FROM COLORADO

[SPA] “Es un partido durísimo. Es un partido que va ser de ida y vuelta. Tenemos que tratar de jugar como lo hicimos el último partido [en contra Dallas]. Creo que hicimos un gran partido todo el grupo, todos los compañeros. A descansar, a pensar en ellos que va ser un gran partido y tenemos la ventaja de jugar de local así que vamos a dar lo mejor.”

[ENG]“It’s going to be a tough match. It’ll be back and forth. We have to try and play like we did in the last game [against Dallas]. I think we played a great game as a whole group, as teammates. Now we rest, prepare for Colorado because it’s going to be a tough game, but we have the advantage of playing at home so we’re going to give it our best.”

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ADRIAN HEATH ON JACK PRICE

“Jack’s, you know, I’ve known him a long, long time. He’s an English kid who I’m remembering from his early days. If you give good players time and space, invariable they’ll show you they’re a good player and Jack is one of them. He makes good decisions. Doesn’t kill himself by making poor decisions. When you give him the ball, he makes invariably…he’s a good passer, good range of passing. We’re going to have to make sure he doesn’t have that much time.”
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MICHAEL BOXALL ON MAKING THE PLAYOFFS FOR THE 2ND YEAR

“Watching this team grow, it’s kind of where we expect to be: hosting playoff games and, obviously that was our goal last year, we got there and I think we still left a bit on the table. We want to go, definitely, a lot further than we went last year. It can’t just be about making the playoffs, it’s about making a deep run and I don’t think MLS Cup is unrealistic for us.”

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STORYLINE
MNUFC and Colorado last met just three weeks ago on October 28. The Loons found themselves having to dip into their reserves, including welcoming back Brent Kallman to the starting XI for the first time in over a year. The two teams vied for dominance over the course of the first half, but excellent vision from Emanuel Reynoso and a perfectly weighted pass to Robin Lod opened the scoring just before the break. The Rapids got it back to level off an Andre Shinyashiki strike in the 69th minute but the visitors were ultimately undone by an own goal by Lalas Abubakar in the 88th minute. Yet again, the teams were separated by just a single goal — a scenario that’s played out five times in the eight games they’ve played. For whatever reason, these matchups are always taut, feisty affairs and Sunday is shaping up to be no different.

FIRST TOUCHES

Robin Lod became the second Loon to provide three assists in a game. He tied Jan Gregus, who set the bar back on June 29, 2019 against FC Cincinnati.

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SOUND OF THE LOONS: A RETURN TO THE POSTSEASON

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