After Minnesota United suffered their worst loss of the season at Philadelphia Union, a neutral viewer would assume a home match against a Colorado Rapids team that hadn’t won in two months would be just the tonic for a team playing for pride and playing to inspire their home support that this could get better.
Instead, United found a way to not only lose to Colorado but to do it in increasingly comedic and embarrassing fashion, culminating in a benches-clearing scuffle after Colorado’s second goal in stoppage time. The final score was 2-0, but the four instances of VAR will stick in the Minnesotan mind.
Minnesota entered the game missing Francisco Calvo and Rasmus Schüller, both on international duty. Calvo’s absence forced some adjustments in Adrian Heath’s lineup, with all three of Alexi Gómez, Marc Burch and Eric Miller in the lineup. Gómez played in midfield, and Darwin Quintero was the team captain over the usual backups in Michael Boxall and Brent Kallman.
The first half’s action was a sloppy affair between two teams lingering at the bottom of the Western Conference. Gone was the attacking fluency of previous Minnesota home performances, and chances were available to Colorado through turnovers and poor decisions.
When Colorado had no less than three shots cleared off the goal line in a sequence of play less than 20 minutes into the game, the warning bells of upset should have been ringing loud and clear. Minnesota had two very good chances, including a shot from Ángelo Rodríguez that sailed just high very early, but the biggest highlights coming on defense did not inspire confidence.
The raw numbers did not help. At halftime, Minnesota had failed to record a single shot on goal, where Colorado had five. Again, this Colorado team had lost its previous seven games by a combined score of 22-1. For a team whose saving grace had been their home form, the Loons should have blown the Rapids out of the building.
As the second half started, it looked like the halftime message had worked and Quintero, as he so often has been this season, was the one to unlock the Colorado defense. Quintero beat Tim Howard at his near post with a shot inside the box, and all seemed well.
The VAR saga then grew in consequence. The referees had used the system once in the first half to check a foul, which resulted in a yellow card on Colorado’s Marlon Hairston. Now it was called in to check on the Minnesota goal, and sure enough, Rodríguez was a half-step offside in the buildup.
The game returned to even, as the issue of offside returned to burn the home team after their winning goal at Salt Lake had been taken away for the same reason. It was not even for long, as Colorado twisted the knife and opened the scoring for real on a perfect header from Yannick Boll in the 61st minute.
Discontent at TCF Bank Stadium continued to grow as first Frantz Pangop (for Miguel Ibarra), then Ibson (for Gómez) entered the game as Heath tried to tinker and inspire. The Loons looked less likely to score after the Colorado goal than at any point before it. The performance was insipid, dull and reeked of a team that had given up.
The one-goal gap meant that even such a performance could be saved by a late scramble, and when Ibson punished one such scramble as stoppage time began, the home fans had something to cheer for 15 seconds. A point rescued against Colorado in a game in which the Rapids deserved all three points was a bad taste in the mouth to celebrate, but it was something.
As the referee’s conversations began again and the box signal for review was given once more, it seemed almost inevitable what the result would be. Sure enough, Rodríguez was even further offside than he had been at the first opportunity, as it was his deflected shot that Ibson finished. The goal was chalked off, the boos were loud, but the calls were correct.
Just as the first disallowed goal, Colorado followed this one with their exclamation point. They broke away from Minnesota’s pressure, and Niki Jackson made no mistake when lobbing Matt Lampson, who was far off his line to move the attack along. The game was over, but the embarrassment was still to come.
The Colorado celebrations were loud and thrilled, as the team had finally broken their terrible fun of form. The frustration of the Minnesotan players had already almost boiled over in the minutes before the goal, and when Tommy Smith ran to celebrate basically in the Minnesota coaches’ box to antagonize the fans, the wheels fell off the wagon.
Harrison Heath came off the bench to get in Smith’s face. Most of the Minnesota coaching staff got involved. There was a thrown water bottle, possible swung fists, and every player from both teams, benches, goalkeepers and everyone in between engaged in a whole lot of angry yelling. It was a pathetic look for both teams, and disappointing for the referee to lose control in such a manner.
In the end, Smith and Heath were both given straight red cards (Heath wasn’t even in the game), and Minnesota goalkeeping coach John Pascarella was dismissed from the bench. There could be even more fallout as the footage is reviewed over the week, but there was plenty, perhaps too much done within the game’s minutes of play.
The game finished after almost 16 minutes of stoppage time, and nothing had changed. Minnesota had displayed one of its worst, most petulant performances of the entire season, and finished it off with a sight that no fan wants to see. Their final home game against the Los Angeles Galaxy is meant to be a spectacle with over 50,000 fans expected, but the reactions will be loud and angry if the game looks like this.