In our list of rivals for the Colorado Rapids, there are usually three clubs that come to mind. RSL is the incredibly obvious one—between the Rocky Mountain Cup and the bad blood between our fanbases, there is no doubt this is a rivalry. FC Dallas is another one, with a series of coaches, players, playoff games, and hard knocks between us. SKC is a third one, but while the two teams have a long history between them, there isn’t such an antagonistic relationship between the two teams.
Besides those three, there is a growing rivalry with a relative MLS newcomer, Minnesota United FC. It is hard to really call it a true rivalry at this point, having only played against them a total of six times in regular season play, but there have been some big moments between these two that have certainly laid the foundation for a rivalry.
Let’s take a look at all three seasons between our two teams.
Game 1: COL 2 - MNU 2
The first time we played the Loons, they had started their season off on a historically bad note. They opened their MLS career against the Timbers, losing 5-1 at home, then lost their first game at home against Atlanta 1-6. Having let in a total of 11 goals over their first two games, we were feeling confident. Sadly, when they came to town, we ended up giving them their first-ever point in MLS. Goals by Dominique Badji and Marlon Hairston helped to offset a Kevin Molino PK and a goal from Christian Ramirez, but wasn’t enough to get the win. It wasn’t fun seeing what should have been an easy team to beat give us a pretty hard time on our home turf, but in hindsight, we were lucky to scrape by with a point.
Game 2: MNU 1 - COL 0
The second time we met, things went even worse. Between our first meetup and this game, we traded Sam Cronin and Marc Burch to Minnesota, both of whom featured in their starting lineup. In exchange, we got Josh Gatt and Mohammed Saeid, but neither ended up having the staying power we had hoped for. Miguel Ibarra scored in the 72nd minute and once again we played with an anemic offense. A disappointing result on the road in a season full of disappointing results on the road.
The season ended with the Rapids in 10th place in the Western Conference, with Minnesota just three points above us in 9th. Had the season gone a bit differently with one of these games, we could have traded places, but alas—no such luck.
Game 3: COL 3 - MNU 2
The streak snapper. 2018 started off rough for the ‘Pids. After five games with a pair of wins, a pair of ties, and a disappointing season-opening loss against the Revs, Head Coach Anthony Hudson led us through a period of eight losses in a row. A tie against Chicago helped to get a point after the eight-game stretch, but it was the win against the Loons that really stopped the slide. After the 65th minute, Minnesota was up by one. Fortunately, a Joe Mason goal followed by a Tommy Smith header in the 7th minute of stoppage time broke the winless streak—a moment that foreshadowed an event in the next game we played against them.
Game 4: MNU 0 - COL 2
The streak snapper… again. A draw, followed by another seven losses in a row. Another dark period during the Hudson era, followed by Minnesota helping us to break out of that mindset. This game is absolutely the defining game of this rivalry. MNUFC had a pretty good home record and the Rapids had only won a single game on the road up to this point. I don’t think many of us expected to come away with points. Yannick Boli scored in the 61st minute to put us up by one, and the Loons had a goal called off in the 4th minute of stoppage time, but it was the late Niki Jackson goal that was the moment of the match.
After the goal in the 7th minute of stoppage time (again), Tommy Smith went and celebrated right in front of the Minnesota bench. Someone on their bench sprayed him with a water bottle, followed by one of their coaching staff shoving him. A lot of pushing and shoving happened between the Rapids and both the Minnesota players and their bench. While it wasn’t very dignified, this was the moment that really laid the foundation for this rivalry.
In total, this led to a lot of disciplinary action. I looked it up, and the scientific term for this is a metric VAR’s worth.
Tommy Smith was given a straight red card, as was MNUFC midfielder Harrison Heath. The Loon’s goalkeeper coach John Pascarella was also ejected. Afterward, the MLS disciplinary council acted. Minnesota, their coach Adrian Heath, the Rapids, and Hudson were all fined. Pascarella was issued an additional three-game suspension and fined. MNUFC midfielder Alexi Gomez was issued a three-game suspension and fined for violent conduct. Harrison Heath was handed an additional game suspension and fined.
Rapids forward Yannick Boli was suspended for one game and fined for entering the field of play. Marlon Hairston, Edgar Castillo, and Minnesota’s Miguel Ibarra were all fined for “escalating the mass confrontation incident.” Minnesota’s Maximiano was fined for violating the bench behavior policy. Jack Price, and Minnesota’s Brent Kallman, Darwin Quintero, and Angelo Rodriguez were all fined for violation of hands to the face, head, or neck of an opponent.
Holy wow. A total of three ejections, four post-game suspensions, and a whopping sixteen fines. Good god. Genuine question to the MLS world (hint: calling Maxwell), has there ever been a single incident that resulted in more ejections, fines, and suspensions? There might have been a single game with more, but I have yet to find any single event that led to more disciplinary action.
The 2018 season ended poorly for us, to say the least. But we at least had one heck of a memorable moment to end our last game against Minnesota. Of our eight wins over the season, a quarter of them came against the Loons. We didn’t look like a great team, but we got six valuable points out of a team that shouldn’t have given up all six points.
Game 5: COL 1 - MNU 0
The first meeting in 2019 was, fortunately, post-Hudson. This season, Minnesota became a playoff contender—a completely different team than 2018 and especially 2017. We too had flipped the switch and, under Conor Casey’s interim tenure, started punching way above our weight class. A goal in the first half from Kei Kamara was the only goal of the game, but managing to hold on to a one-goal lead over the entire game was nonetheless an impressive feat. MNUFC left with no points, making them winless at DSGP even to this day, with a record of 0-2-1.
Game 6: MNU 1 - COL 0
In a sad twist of fate, game 5’s result was practically entirely flipped for game 6. A goal from Quintero in the first half against us on the road and an otherwise silent scoreline. They ended the season in 4th place in the Western Conference with 53 points, while we narrowly lost out on playoffs in 9th place with 42 points. This wouldn’t have been a difference-maker, but it was a nonetheless exciting match between two fairly evenly matched teams.
Which brings us to the 2020 season. Ordinarily, we would have played Minnesota on the road by now, with the home rematch set for August. But nothing about this entire year is ordinary.
Lucky for us, we will be facing off against them in the MLS is Back Tournament, assuming that coronavirus cases don’t prevent the tournament from happening to begin with. Away from fans in both burgundy and gray alike, any matches played between the two teams won’t have the same energy. But depending on how the games go, they can still give us more fuel for the rivalry fire.
We finish the group stage against them on July 22nd, so needless to say the results of this match will have big implications for where both teams end up.