Brac­ing for ex­pan­sion foe

The Denver Post - - MARCHING ALONG - By Daniel Boni­face Dan Boni­face: 303-954-1104, dboni­face@den­ver­post.com or @daniel­boni­face

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:

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