Minnesota head coach Adrian Heath made several changes from the side that defeated FC Cincinnati on penalties. Michael Boxall and Brent Kallman remained in the center of the defense with Tyrone Mears on the right, but Alexi Gomez was moved to left back to take advantage of Marlon Hairston on the right of Colorado’s defense. Collen Warner and Rasmus Schüller held down the midfield for the Loons. Christian Ramirez spearheaded the attack, supported by Ibarra on the right, Darwin Quintero at the 10, and Collin Martin on the left wing.
Lacking a true right midfielder, Colorado started in the predicted 3-5-2 formation with Jack McBean and Dominique Badji up top. Colorado also took note of the right side of its formation and repeatedly went to Hairston to take advantage of Alexi Gomez defensively.
Minnesota came out looking to win against the bottom-dwelling Rapids and controlled play from the outset. The Loons found success running past Colorado defenders with the ball and then laying off to another player, as well as sending in early crosses. The Rapids’ back line was equal to the task, clearing most danger before it turned into a shot.
Slowly, the Loons found their footing in the final third. A Quintero layoff to Ibarra saw Batman fire a curling shot just wide of Tim Howard’s post in the 11th minute. Still, Colorado looked dangerous whenever they got into the final third with pace. Gomez made several good defensive plays, but they were regularly created by his being out of position. A turnover at midfield created a dangerous chance for Badji, but Bobby Shuttleworth pushed it aside.
In the 20th minute, Minnesota broke the deadlock. Warner picked the ball off a Rapids player’s toe at the top of Minnesota’s penalty area and knocked the ball on to Schüller, who sent a long ball into Quintero’s run. Quintero touched the ball past the Rapids defender marking him. Darwin’s shot was stopped by Howard, but the dribbling rebound was blasted home by a crashing Miguel Ibarra to give the visitors a 1-0 lead.
The Loons created good opportunities throughout the rest of the first half, but failed to convert any of them. The only events of note were a denied penalty for Colorado in the 34th minute when Brent Kallman appeared to haul down a Colorado attacker and a pair of corner kicks for Minnesota just before half, including a point-blank save by Howard on another Ibarra shot.
Coming out of the break 1-0, Minnesota started the second half flat and Colorado came out more active than prior to the break. In the 51st minute, Colorado got their equalizer. An onrushing Edgar Castillo touched the ball past Ibarra, who overran the attacker, and Castillo fired a curling shot past Shuttleworth to level the game.
Castillo played the villain on the next goal. The left winger played Ibarra onside as Quintero found Batman with an angled through-ball. Ibarra tapped a cross to Ramirez, who tapped home to give the Loons a 2-1 lead in the 65th minute. There was some concern as to whether Ibarra was onside, but VAR was not called for to review the decision.
Colorado continued to pressure, with Minnesota content to defend and counter in an effort to hold the 2-1 scoreline. The home team found its equalizer in the 74th minute. Minnesota allowed the Rapids to pass through the center to attacking substitute Shkëlzen Gashi, whose through-ball to Joe Mason let the striker in alone on goal. Shuttleworth was unable to stop the Wolverhampton loanee’s chipped shot, and Colorado were level once again.
Exacerbating matters for the Loons, Ibarra was goaded into an altercation and was sent off after the goal (the red card was issued officially in the 76th minute). Danny Wilson had the ball and Ibarra appeared to be attempting to get it in order to restart play. After Ibarra gave Wilson a shove, Jack Price returned the favor on Ibarra, who hit the ground. In the aftermath, United were down a man and Joe Mason of Colorado was shown a yellow.
Video replay makes it clear that Ibarra made physical contact towards Wilson’s head, which is an automatic red card. United fans will feel hard done by the decision, and there could be a case made that Price should have been disciplined, but Ibarra deserved his red.
Tied 2-2 with 12 minutes left to play, and now down a man, Minnesota bunkered in an attempt to save an away point. Mason Toye came on in the 81st minute for Christian Ramirez in a straight swap.
The collapse was complete for Minnesota when, in the 97th minute, Tommy Smith knocked in a corner kick for the Rapids. The fourth official had signaled a minimum of six minutes of stoppage time, and the additional 30 seconds were enough to down Minnesota.
As good as Minnesota looked in the first half, the second half was equally underwhelming. A failure to bury chances in the opening 20 minutes burned the Loons, but that effect was amplified by an anemic performance after the break. Given the plethora of defensive missteps this season, Heath should know not to trust a one-goal lead, and Minnesota gave just such a lead up twice in this match.
There were a lot of encouraging things in this match. Gomez did fine in the first half defensively, even if he was caught too far upfield on occasion. Ramirez, Ibarra, and Quintero showed chemistry and an ability to make things happen. Collin Martin had some good moments as well, and is a decent attacking option for Heath.
On the other hand, the defensive errors continue unabated for the Loons. Mason’s goal came after a lack of defensive pressure that allowed Gashi onto the ball with time and space in the center of the pitch, and Kallman slipped as he moved to mark Mason. Ibarra lost his head in a moment and put the team down a man in an easily winnable away match. Still, had United been up by more than a goal, Kallman’s slip does not matter as much, Ibarra is not as anxious to restart play, and, perhaps, does not take a swing at Wilson’s head. Soccer is won and lost in the small moments, and the small moments continue to work against the Loons.
Next up for Heath and company is FC Dallas at home on Friday, June 29th.
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