Minnesota United FC vs Colorado Rapids: Keys to the Match: October 28, 2020
Wednesday will mark the Rapids' second match of the year against Minnesota United FC. Back in July at the MLS is Back Tournament, Colorado earned a hard-fought 2-2 draw in the final matchup of group play.
Since then, MNUFC has had its ups and downs. Currently, they are in good form on a five-game unbeaten run.
The Loons have found most of their success on the defensive end, conceding just 23 goals, the third-fewest in the Western Conference. What's most impressive is they've done this without 2019 Defender of the Year Ike Opara and 2019 Goalkeeper of the Year Vito Mannone. Mannone was only on a one-year loan last season, and Opara hasn't played since March due to an undisclosed injury. To lose such key contributors and still be one of the better defensive teams speaks to the quality of the system and coaching.
When your defending is that stout, the offense doesn't need to be too special to give the team a chance. Yet, Minnesota isn't bad offensively. Sure, they're not breaking any records, but they're fifth in the conference in goals scored, with a respectable 29 in 18 matches.
So, with an above-average defense and a good-but-not-great attack, Minnesota have centered themselves, and the perfect word to describe them is balanced.
This week, the Rapids will face a balanced Minnesota team that is just a point out of fourth place, which would grant them a home playoff game for the second year in a row. Here's my formula for going on the road and getting a result against a quality squad with few weaknesses.
1. Shutdown the highway.
Minnesota's best attacking player in 2020 has been MF/F Kevin Molino. He links the midfield to the attack and his involvement in 10 of the Loons' 29 goals leads the team. He's found success playing centrally and getting the ball to their forwards. But the recipe for slowing down MNUFC is simple: force them out wide. Don't give Molino pathways to get vertical. If Minnesota end up with more horizontal and side-to-side passes, the Rapids will have a shot at a clean sheet.
2. Integrate Namli.
The secret is out on who the Rapids' most prolific attacking player is going to be week in and week out. The Designated Player successfully moved to the right wing after beginning the season in the midfield, but, last weekend, he simply wasn't able to get involved enough. Chalk it up to the team being out of sync or lacking match fitness - two things that aren't long-term concerns - Namli only had 36 touches Saturday night in Kansas City. That put him ninth on the team among players who took the field. Some of these kinks will work themselves out just by getting back to playing, but improving upon this will be key to success in Minnesota.
2. Keep your heads up.
The Rapids took a punch against SKC. They got Sporting's best shot, and, after the long break, it was overwhelming. But it was more of an indicator of the moment rather than the quality of the team. The Rapids will need at least a game to get their sharpness back. That game happened, and now it can be forgotten. Now, it's a quick turnaround with Minnesota on deck, and three more points up for grabs.
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