Matchday 4 Preview: Colorado Rapids vs. MN United FC

Matchday 4
Colorado Rapids vs. MNUFC
AppleTV  | 1500 ESPN


This is a very strange beginning to 2023 for MN United FC. Week 1 saw a shocking road win to open the season. Then the team sat out Week 2 with a very early bye-week. Week 3 was a kind of restart to the season in a sloppy snowy home opener. Week 5 will be a depleted roster game against the Vancouver Whitecaps as MLS again plays through the international break. And before that, today, Week 4, a trip to Commerce City, CO, to face the Colorado Rapids. Four points from two games is very good for Minnesota, and it is all quite exciting. So much promise in Frisco. It was good, and fitting, to be back in the snow at Allianz. Two goals from two of the kids. And maybe this team can win without Emanuel Reynoso.

But it feels rather hesitant and halting, as if not much can be said yet, as if things have not quite started yet. Maybe it is the expanded playoffs making these early games feel like an extended pre-season, that they don’t, competitively, matter too much. Or maybe it is the continued wait for Reynoso, if it is a wait and not a moving on, not yet knowing what or who this team will be. Or maybe it is just this interminable Minnesota winter and we are all ready for the snow to stop and can we just get some sun and warmth on our Saturday night? Whatever it is, it seems as though something is waiting to click.

Colorado is definitely waiting for something to click. After topping the West in 2021 and finishing second in the Supporter’s Shield behind a historically good New England Revolution, the Rapids took a step back last year. This year, they have stumbled out of the blocks, going 0-2-1 in their first three and struggling to find their rhythm and form. “You see this quite a lot,” ex-Loon Sam Nicholson said after their game last week. “People have slow starts and it’s just, we’re just waiting for something to click. We’re definitely building something good here.” Hampered by an early injury crisis that they are about to be past and hoping their own young, homegrown players into making the next step,

Colorado feels like a team about to find itself. Historically they have had great joy facing Minnesota, especially at home where they have yet to lose to the Loons; if they are going to get their early season started, this would seem to be the game to do it. While for Minnesota, this feels like another opportunity to do some good before things really start.


MIN: 7th in the West, 1-0-1. D-W

COL: 13th in the West, 0-2-1. L-D-L

In head-to-head regular season match-ups Minnesota has won 4 and lost 7 against Colorado, with 2 draws. The Loons have yet to win in Colorado, going 0-5-1. In all competitions MNUFC is 6-7-3 against COL.

What to watch for

In a recent appearance on the club’s podcast, “Sound of the Loons,” Michael Boxall offered an analysis of the team’s structure. Speaking directly of his relationship with the various midfield pairings that play in front of him, Boxall said:

“I think we just need to, as a back four, help get [the deep playing midfielders] higher up the pitch so that they can be more, just have more of an impact in the final third of the game. There’s times where we get a little too stretched… If we keep things tighter and let them squeeze up the field and help the front guys, then I think that will help us have more success.”

The Loons have often found themselves stretched in this way, playing as a defensive six and an offensive four, with little structural connection between the two. This stretching has left them reliant on one player to bridge the gap, whether that was Ibson, Darwin Quintero, or now, Reynoso. In their opening game against FC Dallas they were able to keep the game tight with a very good, organized press. If they are going to have success without Reynoso it seems like it will come through a press that keeps the field small and the team tight.

Still in search of their rhythm, the Rapids may have a hard time finding their way through the Loons’ press. But if they do, they are poised to turn things around. In their first three games they are already under-performing their xG by 3.5. “We know that we have some good attacking players,” Colorado head coach Robin Fraser said after their most recent loss at San Jose, “but in those moments [in front of the goal], we need to be able to take half chances and turn them into real chances.”

Who to watch

Robin Lod made his 100th appearance for MNUFC last week against the New York Red Bulls. He is also currently on 26 goals, one behind Quintero on the all-time Loons list. He cannot replace Reynoso, but this version of MN United will only find success in the quick playmaking he finds with his offensive partners.

In the first two games of 2023 a fully healthy Kervin Arriaga is quickly becoming the most important all-around player on this team. His ability to control the middle of the field allows everyone else to play with a little bit extra freedom.

If and until Reynoso returns, pushing Lod back out wide, Bongi Hlongwane is being given a chance that he may not otherwise be ready for. His work rate has been incredible and his opportunistic goal last week was hopeful. But if he is going to deserve his spot in the starting XI he needs to become more clinical and consistent, avoiding bad decisions and cheap giveaways.

Much like Bongi, young Colorado homegrown Darren Yapi looks poised to have a breakout season. Leading the team this year with six shots, only two have been on target. If he can find the goal he will be very dangerous up front.

For the past six years, midfielder and captain Jack Price has been the rock of the Rapids. Working his way back into fitness, the Rapids’ have missed his organizing presence on the field. If he is fully fit they will be a different team.

Newly signed DP center back Andreas Maxsø has taken no time getting settled in his new league. Not “early-MNUFC” bad, Colorado struggled defensively last season, finishing 5th worse in goals against with -11 goal differential. Although still a new pairing, Lalas Abubakar and Maxsø look to be quite good together in back.

Injury report


Suspended: Emanuel Reynoso

Out: Bakaye Dibassy (thigh)

Doneil Henry (thigh)

Ryen Jiba (knee)

Mikael Marques (ankle)

Colorado Rapids:

Questionable: Steven Beitashour (hamstring)

Braian Galván (groin)

Alex Gersbach (hamstring)

Jonathan Lewis (knee)

Jack Price (back)

Diego Rubio (knee)

Out: Moise Bombito (knee)

Dantoume Yaya Toure (knee)

The more you know

Minnesota United FC earned their first ever MLS point six years ago today, holding on to a 2-2 draw in Colorado against the Rapids.

In 2022 the Loons conceded 35 second-half goals (of 51 total allowed), 12 of those in the first 15 minutes of the second half.