It’s time for the Audi 2020 MLS Cup Playoffs to begin. By now, we all know the fifth seed Colorado Rapids are on the road against the fourth seed, Minnesota United FC. By now, we all know about all of the highs and lows of the 2020 MLS season. The only thing left to do at this point is kick the ball for 90 minutes and see who comes out on top.
It’s been an up and down year in a myriad of ways for these two clubs. Both won their first two games of the season before it was suspended. They were in the same group in the MLS is Back Tournament, battling out a 2-2 draw. Both have experienced ups and downs, and yet they still ended up fourth and fifth overall in the Western Conference.
Like the Rapids, this Loons team is riding a good run of form. They haven’t lost a match since September 23rd, compiling a 4-0-4 record in that span. They’ve only suffered one defeat at Allianz Field, a 2-1 loss to Sporting Kansas City on August 21st. And depending on how everything shakes out with players returning from international duty, they could be at full strength.
But these are the games you play for. These are the games these teams have in mind when they’re running around cones in preseason in southern California. The reason a midweek draw is such a valuable point is because it gets you closer to this moment, when everything is on the line for 90 minutes.
So, in a single elimination match with the winner advancing to play the winner of Sporting and the San Jose, how can the Burgundy Boys find the decisive goals to win and advance? These are my keys to the game.
1. Wrangle Reynoso.
He didn’t arrive in MLS until early September, but midfielder Emanuel Reynoso wasted no time becoming a key contributor for Minnesota. In 826 minutes, he stacked up seven assists and one goal. He’s one of the better players in MLS already, and the Rapids will have their hands full. The best way to slow him down is to be physical, cut off forward passing lanes and shut down counters before they begin.
2. Make the most of possession.
Minnesota United FC owned the ball more than 50% of the time in just six of their 21 matches. But they’re hosting a playoff game, so they’re clearly comfortable with this style of play. This is when it’s best to remember not all possession is created equal. The last time these two teams played, Colorado won the possession battle but was outshot 26 to 12. If Colorado win possession again, they need to create more attacking opportunities. Take more shots and make life more uncomfortable for Minnesota’s bend-but-don’t-break back line.
3. Score twice.
Minnesota won nine games this season. But of those nine, only two of them came when Minnesota conceded multiple goals. Their record when conceding multiple goals is 2-4-4. Minnesota are clearly comfortable being defensively stout and taking their chances when they come. The biggest key to this game will be getting them out of their comfort zone. Score once, and they’re still in decent shape, but score twice and the Loons can’t play the way they want to play.