To advance at the MLS is Back Tournament, the Colorado Rapids need a win from their Group D finale Wednesday night (10:30 pm ET | ESPN, ESPN Deportes in US; TSN in Canada) against Minnesota United. The marching orders are pretty straightforward with zero points through two games, but the mission also requires coping without two starters.
Center mid Jack Price and center back Danny Wilson were both shown red cards in last Friday’s wild 3-2 loss against Sporting Kansas City, one where the nine-man Rapids nearly were a stoppage-time pinball-esque shot from Graham Zusi away from snatching a draw.
Head coach Robin Fraser praised the fight from his team, but knows the challenge posed by Minnesota won’t make things easy. After a few lean years upon entering MLS as an expansion club, head coach Adrian Heath has turned the Loons around.
“They're an extremely unpredictable team, meaning they have a lot of very talented players who can hurt you in a number of different ways,” Fraser said. “I wouldn't say any two attacks of theirs look the same. Like I said, they're very free-flowing, they have a lot of talented players.
“They have guys who can beat you on the dribble, they have guys who are good in front of the goal, they have good passers, so it presents one of those challenges where you really have to be solid in your approach in terms of how you want to defend and how you want to attack.”
One player who could limit Minnesota’s danger is goalkeeper William Yarbrough, who made his MLS debut against Sporting. The former US international joined Colorado last February on a one-year loan from Club Leon, and already feels comfortable in his new surroundings.
“Ours was definitely a crazy one, and I'm sure it's not going to be my last crazy game throughout my career,” Yarbrough said. “I'm enjoying the league, that's for sure. I love the speed of the game and just pleased to be here after watching it for so long and seeing how much it's grown over the last few years to actually be in it now, it's a great feeling.”
Another player who could prove effective is Kellyn Acosta, who scored a beautiful curling shot in the Sporting loss. But Fraser doesn’t expect the fringe USMNT midfielder to fill Price’s shoes. Rather, it’s a collective effort that could power a crucial three points.
“He just needs to do his job,” Fraser said of Acosta. “He doesn't need to do anything extra, he doesn't need to try to fill in and be Jack. He just needs to do his job, and the combination of players on the field will take care of missing Jack."