Minnesota United are already know they're through to the Knockout Stage of the MLS is Back Tournament as they get set to take on the already-eliminated Colorado Rapids on Wednesday (10:30 pm ET | ESPN, ESPN Deportes in US; TSN in Canada), but Loons coach Adrian Heath says the match still represents an opportunity for his club to find a gear they haven't quite yet hit in tournament play.
Minnesota are coming of a lackluster 0-0 draw against Real Salt Lake in their last match -- a result that didn't wind up hurting them as it pertained to their chances of advancing, but didn't feature the fluid and dynamic attacking the Loons showed they were capable of before the season postponement, when they opened the season by erupting for eight goals in two games.
“I still don’t think we’ve hit our stride the way that we would before the break,” Heath told reporters on Tuesday. “I think there are a few clubs in that same position. But certainly there’s a lot more to come.
“Hopefully we can play our way into some form,” he continued. “I know what this team is capable of and we probably haven’t quite got there yet since the break."
Still, Heath said he's overall pleased with where the team is at through four regular season matches. Minnesota are now at 3W-0L-1D, good for 10 points and second in the Western Conference -- a haul that Heath said falls right at the pace he's told the team it should aim to achieve throughout the season. If they can get three more points against Colorado, it's all the better.
“Whatever happens tomorrow night, I would settle for 10 points from 5 league games [including the first two matches] because we always talk to the players about two points a game -- that’s what you have to try to average if you want to be at the top of the league," Heath said. "And when you consider we haven’t had a home game, I think it’ll be a real good start for us if we could come away from the game with 12-13 points from the games. It’d be great.”
g a m e d a y— Minnesota United FC (@MNUFC) July 22, 2020
don't forget to bring a towel pic.twitter.com/cDG9w8UUoz
As far as the Colorado match, Heath has decisions to make regarding how much squad rotation he employs, and who will start at forward. Marquee signing Luis Amarilla has groin impingement and Mason Toye exited Minnesota's match against Sporting Kansas City with a hip issue, but Heath said they've both been training in full. Aaron Schoenfeld, who started the match against RSL, is another option. Midfielder Kevin Molino, meanwhile, will be a game-time decision with a hamstring injury.
"Both [Amarilla and Toye] have trained fully today and both feel fine," Heath said. "All the front men are fit, healthy and available.”
"[Molino has] a slight hamstring strain and he’s getting into some good form at the moment and the last thing we needed is for him to get a really bad hamstring," he added. "Depending on how bad they are, they can linger for months and months. We’ve erred on the side of caution. He’ll probably be gameday tomorrow, I think.”
The Rapids are playing for pride having already been eliminated, but Heath said he expects a tough match given the history between the sides, and that the Loons still have plenty of incentive to go for all three points considering a victory would see them finish in first place in Group D.
“They’re coming into the game full of confidence,” Heath said of the Rapids. “You can see they’re a real tight-knit group and from our results against them in the past, it’s going to be another tight affair. They’ve got a couple of players who are missing but that’s why you have a squad of players. … We expect a difficult game, I really do. … We know it’s going to be a difficult game but it’s in our own hands what we do. It’d be nice to win the game and hopefully finish top of the group.”