Match Preview: Loons Fly to Colorado

Minnesota United goalkeeper Dayne St. Clair (97) punches the ball away during the match against the Colorado Rapids at Allianz Field in Saint Paul, Minn., on Wednesday, August 30, 2023.
(Photo by Seth Steffenhagen/Steffenhagen Photography)

Minnesota United FC have earned four points from a busy two-match week. On Wednesday, MNUFC came back from being 2-1 down to draw LA Galaxy 2-2. On Saturday, MNUFC came back from a 1-0 deficit to defeat Portland Timbers 2-1 with Sang-Bin Jeong scoring the game winner, his first goal of the season.

Saturday, May 25, the Loons fly west to take on the Colorado Rapids. The history between the two clubs is fraught with close matches and more cards than Euchre deck.

Head coach Chris Armas started his second season with the Rapids with only one win in the first five matches. After a string of impressive wins and a draw against Inter Miami, the Rapids recently have had a Colorado River-stretch of ups and downs: a loss at Cincinnati, a win at NYCFC, a loss against San Jose, a win versus Vancouver, and loss at Real Salt Lake.

Both the San Jose and Salt lake losses came after the Rapids held 2-0 leads. Midfielder Cole Bassett said, “So I think whether we’re home or away, we’ll go after it. I think that’s led to us getting some good results. Then you see a game like San Jose and this one against Salt Lake where we were up two goals, and then we drop points. That’s just football, though. ”

This Saturday, the Colorado Rapids will host MNUFC at 8:30 pm CT. Eric Ramsay and Minnesota United are on a five-game unbeaten streak. They look to stay unbeaten at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park, a stadium that has granted them one win and one draw out of seven attempts.

Form (W-L-D)

MIN: 2nd in the West (24 pts, GD +7), 7-2-3 (4-1-0 away), W-D-W-W-W
COL: 6th in the West (21 pts, GD +1), 6-5-3 (3-2-1 home), L-W-L-W-L

MIN @ COL -- how the teams compare MIN / COL Record (W-L-D): 7-2-3 / 6-5-3 Points: 24 / 21 MLS Position: 2nd West / 6th West Goals Scored: 21 / 24 Goals Against: 14 / 23 Assists: 26 / 16 Shots: 182 / 172 Shots on Goal: 69 / 64 Fouls Conceded: 165 / 156 Fouls Suffered: 114 / 162 Offsides: 21 / 30 Corner Kicks: 78 / 65 PK Scored: 0 / 6 PK Attempts: 0 / 5 Clean Sheets 2 / 3

Series – MNUFC

Overall: 8-7-2
MLS Regular Season: 6-7-2 (includes 2020 MLS Is Back tournament)
MLS Away in Colorado: 1-5-1
2020 MLS Cup Playoffs: 1-0-0
2022 USOC: 1-0-0
The Minnesota Thunder also beat the Colorado Rapids in their string of upsets in the 2005 U.S. Open Cup. Melvin Tarley scored four goals at James Griffin Stadium at Central High School to lead the Thunder to a 4-1 victory.


Out: Hugo Bacharach (knee), Emanuel Reynoso (not due to injury), Miguel Tapias (red card suspension)
Questionable: None
Out: Daniel Chacón (knee), Wayne Frederick (hip) Kimani Stewart-Baynes (groin)
Questionable: None

Eric Ramsay chats with Will Trapp and Hassani Dotson after training Friday, May 24, 2024 (Photo by Matthew Johnson, Northland Soccer Journal)

Training Notes from Eric Ramsay and Michael Boxall

With the two-match week last week and three matches in eight days coming up, Eric Ramsay gave the players an extra day off. Michael Boxall explained, “After Saturday night’s win, we got the Sunday-Monday off. We’re usually in the Monday for a light session. But then after that, it was just the work week as usual.”

Boxall also talked about the coaches shifting focus from defense to offense:

“Obviously coming from Eric, everything he does is super detailed. And you can see that flows through all the support staff that we have. So, we’re still introducing things week by week. Obviously, the first four or five weeks was all about how we approach the game defensively. And I think that’s put us in a good position to work on things with the ball, now that we can be a bit more both dynamic and progressive when we’re with the ball.”

When NSJ asked Boxall to break down the key defensive concepts, he explained the conventional wisdom to force the ball wide and not let opponents get runs and shots in the middle. However, he added, “You’re forcing them wide, and they have the ball on touch line. Okay, first, you’ve got to defend the cross. If you don’t defend the cross, then you’ve got the second chance to defend the shot, which just makes it more predictable for us. There’s a small likelihood of keeping clean sheets and giving Dayne [St. Clair] less work to do.”

Regarding the high altitude of Dick’s Sporting Goods Park, the head coach said that he consulted the players, especially Clint Irwin (who played for Colorado for two stints), but downplayed any significance:

“The general consensus is [the altitude affect] gathers more weight over the years than then is necessary in some senses. And I certainly don’t want to make make it something that it’s not. It’s not like we’re going to play a different sport on a different planet. There’s a lot of parallels, of course. So we don’t want to make it something that is not and give the players an excuse that they didn’t have really.”

Boxall agreed that altitude doesn’t make a big difference more than other “external factors” and concluded, “whether it’s that [heat in Texas and Florida] or four degrees and sleet, we prepare the same.” He then broadened this to North American soccer: “Obviously, playing in this league and getting used to having to adjust to those climates in 12 hours is something you get used to or something that you mentally just just block out.”

Minnesota United defender Michael Boxall (15) passes the ball during the match against the Colorado Rapids at Allianz Field in Saint Paul, Minn., on Wednesday, August 30, 2023.
(Photo by Seth Steffenhagen/Steffenhagen Photography)

From the Other Side: Cole Bassett and Chris Armas

Midfielder Cole Bassett feels good about playing at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park: “It’s a big one for us this week, we haven’t had too many home games. We need to win those home games.” He ended with, “We’ve got a good side coming in. We know they’re losing a key player in [Miguel Tapias] with a red card. So we’ll look to go after them. It’s a game that we got to go in thinking we’ll win. I think we’ll respond well, it’s a confident group.”

Colorado coach Chris Armas concluded, “They’re a really organized team. They’re tight structurally, front-to-back. They’re really tough in transition and exceptional on set pieces. So like like every other game, it’s another big test for us, and we love it.”

Manchester re-United

Eric Ramsay was an assistant at Manchester United from 2021-2024. Chris Armas overlapped as an assistant coach at Manchester United for the 2021-2022 season before spending time at Leeds United.

Armas admitted that he and Ramsay “got along really well in Manchester, on the pitch, off the pitch.” He then praised Ramsay: “He’s a pro, a real pro, got a good voice, got a good brain for the game, building a good culture, no surprise. there, tough to play against, really innovative young coach.”

Armas downplayed any Man U extra motivations and said, “We connected when he [Ramsay] was just about to take the job, but now for me, ‘the little extra on it’ is three points in our building for our fans and everyone in this club.”

Key Players

Three players come off the injury list for MNUFC. Ramsay said  Jordan Adebayo-Smith, Moses Nyeman, and Hassani Dotson are all available. Dotson is likely to start or come off the bench. Ramsay noted about Dotson, “He’s actually trained really well over the course of two weeks. I think he’s well in-contention, and obviously it’s timely with the three games that we’ve got next week. So we’re really pleased that he’s coming back into the fold, and I’m sure the team will welcome him back because he’s a big player for us.”

With Miguel Tapias suspended for picking up a late 2nd yellow against Portland, Devin Padelford is likely to step in at left centerback. Also, captain Michael Boxall will have to keep his back line on their toes. Boxall said that Colorado “brought in a log of key players” and are “on a good run as well.” Left fullback Joseph Rosales has recorded at least one assist in the past five consecutive games. He has seven assists in that five-game stretch.

Minnesota United midfielder Joseph Rosales (8) crosses the ball before LA Galaxy midfielder Mark Delgado (8) can block it during the match at Allianz Field in Saint Paul, Minn., on Wednesday, May 15, 2024.
(Photo by Seth Steffenhagen/Steffenhagen Photography)

On the attack Robin Lod has 4 goals and 9 assists in 2024 and now is the all-time leading scorer for MNUFC in the MLS era. Tani Oluwaseyi has 5 goals and 2 assists. While he hasn’t scored in the last in the last two matches, Oluwaseyi has three game-winning goals and one game-drawing goal. He should be hungry around the goal mouth.

For the Rapids, Rafael Navarro has scored in four consecutive matches, the first Rapids player to do so since Kei Kamara in 2019-20. Navarro has eight goals and two assists this year with four of the goals coming from the penalty spot. Center Midfielder Cole Bassett has five goals and one assist. Their number 10 Djordje Mihailovic moves the ball really well and has eight goal contributions: five of those are assists.

On the defensive side, captain Keegan Rosenberry will lead a back-four that includes left fullback Sam Vines. Vines returned to youth academy club and where he started his MLS career after two seasons in Belgium with Royal Antwerp. A bigger splash from overseas was Zack Steffen. The goalkeeper joined Colorado in the off-season from Manchester City.

Western Conference Standings as of Friday, May 24, 2024. You can find similar information here:

The Minnesota United Express

Minnesota is in 2nd place and Colorado is in 6th, but only three points separate them. Captain Boxall commented, “You look at the table, and everything’s sorta tight. So, it really doesn’t matter what we’ve done the last four or five weeks if we don’t take care of business the next two, three.”

The match kicks off at 8:30 pm CT this Saturday at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park. This match is available for free this week on Apple TV. AM 1500 as usual will handle the radio broadcast.

Eric Ramsay has engineered the Minnesota United express to keep chugging along despite different stadia terrain and changes to his operating staff. The Loons have railed off four wins and one draw in the last five matches. Will the MNUFC express continue to ride the rails of victory or will the ride get a bit rocky heading into the mountains? Northland Soccer will be watching and tell you all about it.


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