The Colorado Rapids are the lower seed in their Western Conference quarterfinal clash with Minnesota United, but the Rapids have a very real chance against a Loons side that could be missing several players due international duty.
Minnesota United is waiting on good news surrounding the availability of Jan Gregus, Robin Lod, Romain Metanire and Kei Kamara, and if all four are available for Sunday’s match against the Rapids, then the Loons will be the clearcut favorite.
For the Rapids, Robin Fraser will see striker Diego Rubio return from international duty, a major boost for the attack. The Rapids ended the regular season with three-consecutive wins and are capable of puling the surprise at Allianz Field.
Here is a closer look at the matchup:
The teams only played twice this season due to COVID-19, with the Loons winning 2-1 at home on October 28th. Minnesota United also forced a 2-2 draw against the Rapids at the MLS is Back Tournament.
Player to Watch
As many attacking threats as the Loons boasts, it is Molino who could make the biggest difference against the Rapids with his mobility and ability to take people on.
The Trinidad & Tobago playmaker scored nine goals and added two assists in 19 appearances for Adrian Heath’s side this season, including a brace in a 3-0 victory over FC Dallas on Decision Day.
Molino will likely be joined by Aaron Schoenfeld and Ethan Finlay in Heath’s formation, but has to put in a top performance for the Loons to advance.
19-year-old Cole Bassett has registered a strong season for the Rapids and will be vital to the team’s hopes of advancing this weekend.
Bassett has scored five goals and chipped in five assists from his attacking midfield position, improving his numbers from 2019. After impressing for most of the season for the Rapids, Fraser could go with Bassett to light a spark in his team’s attack in their biggest match over the past few seasons.
Matchup to watch
KELLYN ACOSTA VS. HASSANI DOTSON
Two of MLS’ impressive midfielders will go head-to-head in hopes of leading their teams to victory.
Kellyn Acosta continued to develop as an all-around midfielder for the Rapids and is one of the engines that gets them to go. The 25-year-old will be opposed by a rising talent in Loons’ midfielder Hassani Dotson, who excelled in his second MLS season.
Both players bring a lot of the same energy to the field and will likely see a lot of one another in the heart of the pitch.
The Argentine has delivered six assists in his first MLS season and is always a threat himself to score in the attacking third. Reynoso delivered a goal or assist in his final three regular season matches, showing good form during an important stretch of the season for the Loons.
Jonathan Lewis has come up with some important goals for the Rapids this season and could provide a spark whether it is in the starting lineup or off the bench.
The U.S. Men’s National Team winger scored five goals in 2020 and is always a handful for opposing defenders. Lewis’ ability to not only score, but set up his teammates makes him a top option for Fraser to call upon on Sunday.
Minnesota United will be favorites at home, but the potential availability of its international contingent – which could benefit from Major League Soccer’s efforts to have players use charter flights to avoid delays in their return from international duty – will be a big storyline to watch on Sunday.
The Loons are riding an eight-match unbeaten streak coming into Sunday’s clash, posting five clean sheets over that span, but it will be up to Adrian Heath to figure out how to cope without the likes of Jan Gregus and Robin Lod.
Molino and Finlay are two veteran wingers in the league and have paired nicely with Reynoso in the attacking corps. Young goalkeeper Dayne St. Clair will also be huge for the Loons in goal, playing in what will be his first postseason match.
Colorado ended the regular season on a good run, showing their quality with wins over West powers Seattle and Portland. Despite this being their first playoff match since 2016, the Rapids have shown many positive signs in Fraser’s first season as head coach.
If Minnesota United has its full squad, including Gregus and Lod, then Adrian Heath’s side will be the pick to advance, but the Rapids are a rested bunch playing with confidence, and aren’t likely to be intimidated by the moment.