Minnesota has historically not been a great team, but they are starting to turn things around for themselves. This year started with them cutting a lot of dead weight from the team as they let 16 players go and brought in only half of that.
The big problem that they have had to work on has been their defensive issues. Last year they allowed 71 goals, tied with San Jose for worst in the Western Conference. So in the offseason, they brought in Ike Opara, the star defender from Sporting Kansas City. This was a huge get for them, as Opara was part of the best defense in MLS and was absolutely crucial for KC to play as well as they did. Other big players they brought in included an Italian keeper on loan from Reading FC, Vito Mannone, and new DP Jan Gregus, the Slovakian midfielder previously with FC Copenhagen in the Danish Superliga.
The formation that Head Coach Adrian Heath has been playing has been extremely fluid in the last few games. They’ve played in a 4-3-3, a 4-4-2, a 4-4-1-1, a 5-3-2, and a 4-2-3-1. For this weekend, I honestly have no clue what formation exactly they will be planning on lining up in. I think in this case, it is more important to look at the usual players who we would expect to see.
In net is the aforementioned Mannone. In the back line, they’ve tended to stick with Hassani Dotson, Michael Boxall, Romain Metanire, Miguel Ibarra, and the also aforementioned Opara. Their “defensive midfielders”, which I put in quotes because this roster is more than a bit flexible, generally includes Jan Gregus, Rasmus Schuller, and Osvaldo Alonso. Up top, they usually have the club’s first DP Darwin Quintero, Ethan Finlay, and Colombian forward Angelo Rodriguez.
So, after their 15 games this season, how is Minnesota doing? Well… decidedly average. They are sitting in 6th place in the Western Conference, which is above the playoff line but not by much. They’ve scored 23 goals and allowed 24, which is also fairly average for the league. They are 3-1-3 at home and 3-5-0 on the road. Their season has been pretty hit or miss, as they’ve never got the same result more than twice in a row. Quintero and Rodriguez are leading their offense and have five goals, three assists, and four goals, one assist respectively. (Also fairly middle of the road.)
The Rapids, on the other hand, are playing like a brand new team. We aren’t the hopelessly struggling side that Hudson brought out, but a strong group of guys playing with confidence and energy. Minnesota may prove to be an excellent benchmark to compare ourselves to, as they are a very middle-of-the-road team. Unlike other teams we’ve played against, they don’t have a horrible road record, they don’t have many injuries to worry about, they aren’t playing a midweek game prior to the match (although they do have one the week after).
This might end in a loss for us, though it seems unlikely to me. This could also be a case of us just getting a single point and keeping the unbeaten streak alive. Or, this could be a great opportunity for us to get another key three points, potentially putting ourselves past the Portland Timbers or on par with SKC, depending on their results. Regardless, I’m looking forward to another great game this weekend.