A Tale of Two Halves: Colorado 3-3 MNUFC

MNUFC Starting XI at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park (Photo courtesy of MNUFC)

On Saturday night, May 25th, Minnesota United FC visited the Colorado Rapids at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park in Commerce City, CO. The Loons headed into the match with a five-game unbeaten streak: four wins and a draw. The Rapids’ recent record resembled more of a roller coaster: a loss at Cincinnati, a win at NYCFC, a loss to San Jose, a win over Vancouver, and most recently a loss at Real Salt Lake.

Prior to this match, the Rapids’ Kévin Cabral and the Loons’ Sang Bin Jeong had one goal each in 2024. However, in this match both players scored braces. Minnesota went up 3-1 in the first half, but Colorado finished stronger to draw 3-3 by the end.

I have had unformed ideas of striving afresh, beginning anew

Rapids coach Chris Armas is no stranger to MLS having coached at Chicago Fire, New York Red Bulls, and Toronto FC. He arrived at Colorado for their 2023 season after a brief stint at Leeds United. Before Leads he spent the 2021-2022 season as an assistant coach with Manchester United.

Before joining Minnesota United this season, Eric Ramsay also spent time as an assistant at Manchester United from 2021-2023. Prior to the match, both coaches shared their respect for one another.

However, these two head coaches are not teammates now. They are building their MLS sides and rebranding them with new identities.

Brilliant people rising from this abyss — Starting XIs

Last season, the Rapids brought in Rafael Navarro, Kévin Cabral, Calvin Harris, Connor Ronan, Andreas Maxsø, and Moïse Bombito to join regulars like Cole Bassett and Keegan Rosenberry.

For his second year as Rapids coach, Chris Armas and the front office brought in more talent. GK Zack Steffen from Manchester City and fullback Sam Vines from Royal Antwerp have helped Colorado on the defensive side of the ball. For offense, the Rapids brought in attackers Djordje Mihailovic from Alkmaar Zaanstreek and Omir Fernández from NY Red Bulls. They also added midfielder Jasper Löffelsend from Real Salt Lake, but he has been out with a hamstring injury for most of the year.

Colorado Rapids lined up in their typical 4-2-3-1. For most of 2024, Armas has kept the Starting XI consistent, and that continued on Saturday. The back four of Vines, Maxsø, Bombito, and Rosenberry stood in front of GK Steffen. Cole Bassett and Oliver Larraz formed the center midfield. Attacking midfielder Mihailovic and striker Navarro centered the front four. With rare exception, the only rotations have been which two of the three wings get the nod. This match, Armas opted for Fernández and Cabral; the third winger Calvin Harris started on the bench.

Besides captain Rosenberry, Bassett, and Larraz, all of the other eight starters were new to the Rapids in the last two seasons.

COL vs MNUFC Starting XI5-2-1-2 Front 2: Oluwaseyi, Sang Bin Attacking Midfielder: Lod Central Midfield 2: Trapp, Harvey Back 5: Rosales, Padelford, Arriaga, Boxall, Taylor GK: St. Clair Subs: Irwin, Fragapane, Hlongwane, Pukki, Bran, Dotson, Clark, Eriksson, Adebayo-Smith
Note: Boxall is the middle center back, and Arriaga is the right center back.

In contrast, Minnesota’s starting lineup featured mostly players who have been on the squad since 2021 or before. Sang Bin Jeong arrived in 2023 and Carlos Harvey is new this season. Ramsay kept his back line of five with Devin Padelford getting another start for the suspended Miguel Tapias.

Hassani Dotson was cleared to play after his hamstring injury but started on the bench. Carlos Harvey stepped in the midfield where he joined Robin Lod and Wil Trapp. Up front were Tani Oluwaseyi and Sang Bin Jeong, who scored the winning goal against Portland.

A day wasted . . .

In the 8th minute, Devin Padelford cleared a ball high and toward the right sideline. Wil Trapp controlled the ball with his head and then foot to hit Robin Lod. The Finn shed a double team with fancy footwork and weighted a through ball up the middle to a speedy Sang Bin Jeong. Sang Bin outpaced the Rapids fullbacks and dribbled slightly right and shot left past Steffen.

Sang Bin celebrated with a jump upward and a Tae Kwon Do punch downward. After some high-fives and hugs with Trapp, Oluwaseyi, and DJ Taylor, the Korean greeted Lod with a handshake and a bow. Lod now has ten assists on the season. For a day wasted on others is not wasted on one’s self..

Ramsay commented, “He [Sang Bin Jeong] was crucial in obviously how we sort of define the way in which we want to play the spaces that we want to make sure that we could exploit when the ball turned over, and he did that really well. Obviously, I’m immensely pleased that he’s starting to rack up the goals, and that he’s being decisive in front of the goal because he gets a load of chances.” He added, “I would also nod to the fact that he emptied out on the pitch. He ran; he was aggressive. He covered a lot of space, and that’s what the game needed from our wide players.”

‎and yet I have had the weakness

Ten minutes later Colorado countered. This time the Loons’ back line got caught flatfooted as Cabral outpaced everyone to score off an aggressive header from Fernández.

a VAR life you love

In the 24th minute, Sang Bin outsoled a ball over to Joseph Rosales who shot with power. Steffen made the save, but the ball landed at the feet of an unmarked Tani Oluwaseyi, who scored. While the goal was initially ruled offside, the center ref reversed the on-field call after VAR review.

A multitude of people and yet a solitude

Around the 32nd minute, Kervin Arriaga cleared a ball up to Oluwaseyi, who proved more-than-a-goalscorer. From six-plus yards behind the halfway line, the Loons striker hit a through ball which Sang Bin didn’t touch until about 20 yards beyond the halfway line. Sang Bin outpaced four chasing Rapids players and was all alone on goal. This time Sang Bin dribbled slightly right but shifted back left to score with the left boot inside the left post.


Colorado’s Djordje Mihailovic remarked, “It’s not a good mood when you give up three goals from four shots. Counterattacks in the first half from them were pretty good. And I think defensively we were a bit all over the place, gave them too much space to have these opportunities.”

At half time, the Loons led 3-1 at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park off a Sang Bin brace. Oluwaseyi’s goal and assist means he continues to lead the Loons on goals with six and has three assists to boot.

“We’ve always prided ourselves on being a good counter-attacking team. If you look at all three goals, they were more or less in transition. It’s something we’ve done well all season and something we will continue to do well at. Sang [Bin Jeong] did a good job of taking those two chances that he got; great finishes, one with the left [foot] and one with the right. Hopefully, he can continue to build on that. That’s two weeks in a row from him, hope it’s just goal after goal from here from him.” — Tani Oluwaseyi

And have still the weakness … on corner kicks

The first goal of the second half came off a corner kick, but not for the Loons. Mihailovic took the left-side corner which found the head of Navarro. While Bombito may have touched the ball, it was ruled Navarro’s goal, who has now scored in four straight matches for Colorado.

A dream, all a dream, that ends in nothing

DJ Taylor picked up a yellow card for a late challenge on Omir Fernández in the penalty area. Navarro tried the stutter-restart on the penalty kick, but Dayne St. Clair and his trailing right leg saved his 5th of 9 penalty kicks faced in his MLS career.

Death may beget life, but oppression can beget nothing other than itself

In the 71st minute, Cole Bassett would go over the top of the Loons defensive block to hit Cabral, who scored his second of the night and third of the season. The bouncing ball went from Cabral’s head off the Kentucky bluegrass, off St. Clair’s mitts, off the pitch again and still had momentum to bounce in the net.

Sang Bin had a chance for a hat trick in the first half. Teemu Pukki and Bongokuhle Hlongwane both had chances in the second half. However, Ramsay’s second half substitutes could not muster magic this time and found themselves on the back foot. On the result, Oluwaseyi said, ““Definitely mixed feelings. Being up 3-1 and then giving up two goals is never a good thing. We had a couple of opportunities to get the win as well.”

Colorado had the majority of shots late in the game, but neither team found a winning strike. The game ended in a 3-3 draw.

Ramsay summarized, ““We really struggled with the ball today. We didn’t show any signs I would say of coming near to the team that we’ve been [when] we’ve been our best with the ball, that leads us to playing forward very quickly. It means that we’re not well-connected to pick up second balls up when they drop. We give an awful lot of space away behind the back line once we’ve played forward, so a combination of playing forward too quickly, not being prepared enough for the duels, leaving too big a space behind the back line. I would say that would be the three biggest factors, but it starts with not having our fair share of the ball.”

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness

It was the tale of two halves. Mihailovic said, “First half [we] were in the final third 80% of the time and not much of big chance besides Kévin’s [Cabral], maybe. Second half came, and we knew that we were not out of this game.” He credited the second half improvements to both Chris Armas and the players: “It’s a mix of maybe tactical changes from the coach. I think his staff is doing a great job of analyzing the weakness that we did [have] in the first half. And it’s also a credit to our resilience.”

MNUFC has gained a reputation of being a second-half team. Recently, they earned a 2-2 draw against LA Galaxy on Wednesday, followed by a Saturday 2-1 against Portland. In both matches, MNUFC were losing by one goal and came back to get a draw and a win.

The Rapids have been known as a first-half team. Their 1-0 win against Vancouver is sandwiched between two games where they blew first-half two-goal leads. Saturday, May 11, they went up 2-0 on San Jose but lost 3-2 at home. Most recently, they went up 2-0 at Real Salt Lake, but the top team in the West came back to win 5-3.

Regardless of Ramsay’s or Rapid’s reputations, roles got reversed. Throughout this season, Ramsay and players have emphasized the need to start faster, play in the first half like they do in the second. This match, the Loons would score in the 8th, 24th, and 33rd minute. Minnesota got that fast start and were up 3-1 at half-time. However, when the final whistle blew, Rapids had their turn to comeback, albeit not for a victory.

The next time these two teams play will be September 28th. As Charles Dickens wrote, “Vengeance and retribution require a long time; it is the rule.”

NOT the last dream of my soul

The Loons continue their flight westward with a Wednesday wall banger at LAFC, in which the wall is Hugo Lloris. That match will be broadcast on FS1 and Apple TV Free at 9:45 pm CT. The Loons did beat last year’s MLS Cup runner-up in March.

MNUFC return to Allianz Field Saturday, June 1 to take on Sporting Kansas City in the second of three installments in the Friendliest Rivalry in MLS. Can MNUFC continue their unbeaten streak? Can the Loons keep the best road record in the West? Join Northland Soccer Journal on this journey. We’ll find out together.


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