Bracing for expansion foe
commerce city» The Rapids are set to face the new kids on the block Saturday when they take on expansion Minnesota United FC at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park.
Minnesota United, also referred to as the Loons, is off to a dubious start, with 5-1 and 6-1 losses in its first two matches — the most goals ever allowed by an expansion club in its first two games. In fact, the 11 goals allowed is the second-most ever allowed by any MLS side in back-to-back contests.
“They’re not going to get beat 6-1 or 5-1 again, I can assure you that,” Rapids goalkeeper Tim Howard said this week.”Their manager (Adrian Heath) is a good manager. He won’t allow that to happen.”
Minnesota may not lose another lopsided affair, but Colorado could be a tough team to topple, particularly at home, where the Rapids are unbeaten in 18 consecutive league games. They’ve also allowed a goal or less in 19 consecutive league games.
“We’re going to face our toughest game of the season yet,” Rapids coach Pablo Mastroeni said. “Minnesota is playing for something bigger than three points.They’re playing for a lot of pride. We’re anticipating a very motivated group.”
Colorado had a poor showing in a 1-0 loss at the New York Red Bulls, the deciding goal coming on an own goal by Rapids defender Eric Miller. Howard made seven saves in his return from a serious groin injury.
“I can assure you, we will get a reaction from them. That’s how football works. And how we combat that is, we need a reaction too,” Howard said. “We just lost a game. That’s not good enough. To our levels and our standards, that’s unacceptable.”
The Loons have had trouble along their back line. In particular, their fullbacks have had trouble tracking speedy wingers — something the Rapids could take advantage of with speedsters Dominique Badji and Marlon Hairston.
“The back line’s been exploited as of late,” Mastroeni said. “But believe you me, Adrian’s really going to focus on that piece of it moving forward.”
Minnesota has a handful of dangerous players leading its attack, including striker Christian Ramirez and midfielder Kevin Molino.
“They have a very good attacking group,” Mastroeni said. “They like to play narrow and they like to combine with little passes and get their outside backs forward into the attack, which is pretty much very similar to about 99 percent of the teams in this league.”
MINNESOTA AT COLORADO
7 p.m. Saturday, ALT2, 950 AM
The Trinidad and Tobago international has 12 goals and nine assists in 39 career MLS games, most of which came with Orlando City SC. He’s a strong winger, a good dribbler and a chance creator. During the offseason, the Loons paid a transfer fee of $650,000 in allocation money to Orlando to acquire the 5-foot-11, 145-pound midfielder, reuniting him with his former coach, Adrian Heath. The 26-year-old played under Heath from 2011-16 in Orlando.
Spotlight on Kevin Molino: