Home or away, there are a few certainties in every meeting between MN United FC and Colorado Rapids: Entertaining play, yellow cards, and a weather delay. The primetime showdown at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park on Saturday, August 7, was no different.
Missing three key starters due to yellow card suspension (Michael Boxall, Robin Lod, and Emanuel Reynoso) on top recent changes due to injury (Wil Trapp, Jacori Hayes), head coach Adrian Heath rolled out a rare 4-4-2. Brent Kallman slotted in for Boxall, a role he’s played many times, while new rightback Alan Benitez got his first start (third appearance). Nabi Kibungunchy, a NextPro standout, started in midfield, his third first-team start of the regular season.
Robin Fraser’s lineup featured a few very familiar faces, with former Loon Sam Nicholson on the wing and known-disrupters Diego Rubio, Gyasi Zardes, and Keegan Rosenberry. All would feature heavily, as expected.
The Loons started the match a mile high by notching the franchise’s 300th goal in all competitions just four minutes in. Who better to take the credit than the club’s inaugural draft pick, Abu Danladi? While the striker has struggled to find fitness, minutes, and goals (this was his second in MLS play this season, third on the season), he looked much more comfortable this match.
while we wait...might we interest you in this especially dope angle of Abu's goal? pic.twitter.com/V3fwDRtys6— Minnesota United FC (@MNUFC) August 7, 2022
The visitors were brought back to Earth quickly, conceding three goals in the next ten minutes.
The equalizer was a bobble by Dayne St. Clair in the 7th. The keeper dove to smother a shot from Rubio but couldn’t get full control of the ball before Zardes rushed in to finish the chance. It was not a great moment for All-Star DSC, as Heath noted: “Dayne [St. Clair] has had a lot of really good publicity, but he’s had a bad night tonight.” However, the next goal was a bad look for the squad all around.
Colorado’s go-ahead goal came in the 11th, when Rubio managed to slip between Kallman and Bakaye Dibassy to head in a long throw by Rosenberry. Setpiece defense, long an issue for MNUFC, is clearly still an issue.
Zardes struck again in the 15th minute, finishing a clinical cross from Michael Barrios.
Minnesota pulled one back before halftime. Amarilla broke out a filthy backheel on a ball from Benitez in the 44th and curled a shot past William Yarbrough. It was the DP’s eighth goal of the season and on-brand for the guy who promised 25 goals when he was first signed in February of 2020.
Halftime would have been a great reset, with the Loons down 3-2 and gaining momentum. However, the break went on far longer than the standard 15 minutes. Two 30-minute lightning delays kept the players off the pitch for nearly 90 minutes total, reminding many fans of the last meeting between the clubs, the USOC match that had to be delayed due to a waterlogged pitch at Allianz Field.
DSC was forced to make a couple saves early in the second half, but Zardes once again found a way through, completing a hat trick in the 61st — his second against MNUFC, with the first during his Columbus Crew tenure. The third goal was yet another display of Zardes’ danger in the box, another rebound of another Rubio shot. Quite the highlight reel for a player with a poor stretch of form for club and country:
Kallman refreshed Minnesota’s hopes with a setpiece goal of his own in the 81st.
The headed corner is a Kallman classic and this one kept the game alive, but it was not enough. The last ten-plus minutes was all yellow, no goal. Max entered the book in the 83rd, just moments after entering the game for Colorado. Kemar Lawrence and Franco Fragapane also received yellow. Even Rapids coach Robin Fraser talked himself into the book.
While blowing a 1-0 lead is nothing new for MNUFC, doing so inside of the first 15 minutes is a new low. Heath, reflecting on the total of four goals conceded (in two consecutive games), summed up the squad’s recent defensive struggles:
He was also wary to place the blame on any one player, least of all DSC: “When I look at… free header from three yards out from a long throw, everybody is marked up and then suddenly there is two of them free. It’s just lack of concentration and people not doing the job that’s been assigned to them.”
Zardes’ third goal, Colorado’s fourth of the night, was another example of that shared lack of concentration. St. Clair could have, and should have, stopped the shot. But the same could be said for no fewer than two defenders.
Yet again, Minnesota finds itself in a defense vs. offense conundrum. On one hand, a couple cleaner finishes by the Loons up top could have turned the tables at Colorado and preserved a few other leads in recent draws. On the other, a stronger performance by the backline would lessen the lamentation over goals that should have been.
Heath has work to do:
The next match at Nashville (Sunday, August 14) will set the tone for the remainder of the season. Boxall, Lod, and Reynoso, will all be available and a number of alternates now have match minutes under their belts. The Loons need to take control of their own destiny as August heats up.