After a two-game stretch that saw Minnesota United concede 11 goals and score just twice, the Loons were able to show the league that they belong in MLS as they went into Dick’s Sporting Goods Park and played the Colorado Rapids to a 2-2 draw.
Loons manager Adrian Heath has to be satisfied with tonight’s result given the fact that Colorado made it to the Conference Finals last season and did not lose a single game on home soil in 2016. The Rapids conceded just seven goals at home all of last season and Minnesota United were able to put two on the board in tonight’s game alone.
The Loons came out in a 4-2-3-1 formation, which they had used with some success against Portland in the season opener, and found themselves with a few solid scoring opportunities early in the game but were unable to capitalize. Things started to get testy for Minnesota in the 17th minute when Rasmus Schuller played a questionable back pass to Francisco Calvo which ended up falling to Dominique Badji for an easy tap-in goal.
Minnesota could have easily hung their heads and declared Saturday night to not be their night but they fought well as a unit and were able to equalize on a penalty by Kevin Molino after Collen Warner was fouled in the box. The Loons were able to score from open play just eight minutes later and took a brief 2-1 lead as Christian Ramirez headed home a deft cross from Jérôme Thiesson.
Here's the @Chris_Ramirez17 goal @MNDarkClouds are celebrating #MNUFC pic.twitter.com/gINWZRvUZg— E Pluribus Loonum (@EPluribusLoonum) March 19, 2017
The tide of the match turned quickly from this point as Colorado scored two minutes later on a nice cross from Mark Burch which found Marlon Harrison’s head and was tucked into the net.
The Loons found themselves behind the eight ball in the 70th minute when defender Justin Davis was shown a straight red card for a studs-up foul on Hairston. Upon replay, the play looked like a yellow card at the very worst as Davis was simply trying to corral a ball that was in the air when Hairston came into his path.
Two looks at the Justin Davis red card. #MNUFC #COLvMIN pic.twitter.com/94dvYNZL21— E Pluribus Loonum (@EPluribusLoonum) March 19, 2017
After Davis’ dismissal from the game, the Loons did a great job at hunkering down and denying Colorado from getting too many dangerous scoring opportunities. Despite playing for 25 minutes with 10 men, Minnesota was able to hang on for a 2-2 draw.
Perhaps on another night, Minnesota would have ended up winning this game but due to the circumstances with the refereeing, they will surely be happy to come away with a hard-earned point against one of the league’s tougher road teams.
There were a few standout performances that were worth mentioning from tonight’s game. NASL holdouts Brent Kallman and Ibson both looked up to the task at the MLS level as they put in solid shifts against the Rapids. Kallman was able to step into the lineup right away and the defense looked markedly better with him in the lineup as he was able to make a couple of great tackles and did a good job at clearing the ball when called upon. Ibson was leaned upon heavily on the defensive side after Davis’s dismissal and he had a very important tackle late in the game and single-handedly stifled a Rapids attack.
Jérôme Thiesson was another player that looked fantastic tonight, which is very encouraging as he struggled in his MLS debut against Atlanta. The Swiss full back looked out of position early in the first half but he settled down well and ended up providing Christian Ramirez with a perfect cross on the team’s second goal.
Next up for Minnesota United is a road tilt against the Revolution in Foxboro on Saturday. The Revs have yet to record a point in their two MLS games so far this season and have not scored a goal from open play in either game. The Loons are catching them at a great time and Saturday’s game will be a great chance to get some momentum in the team’s inaugural season.