Tapias’ header sends Minnesota United to 2-1 victory over Colorado Rapids
Colorado Rapids finally scored its first goal this season, but Minnesota United finally won a game in Denver with Saturday's 2-1 comeback victory.
Newly acquired defender Micky Tapias' flicked-on header off a 25-yard free kick in the 82nd minute proved the winner on a night when all three goals were scored after halftime.
Until then, the Loons had been 0-5-1 at Dick's Sporting Goods Field – and that one draw came in their inaugural season's third game in March 2017.
The Loons have started the season 2-0-1 without suspended and absent star midfielder Emanuel Reynoso.
On Saturday, the Loons' goals came on second-half substitute Luis Amarilla's 53rd-minute penalty kick and Tapias' deflection of second-half sub Franco Fragapane's curving free kick into a crowd inside the 18-yard box.
With Reynoso missing, Rosales has become the Loons' designated taker of set-piece kicks. He did so when subbed for Hassani Dotson coming out of halftime.
The teams swapped goals within four minutes of each other early in the second half after a scoreless first half.
Colorado midfielder Cole Bassett scored his team's first goal in its fourth game this season. He did so after the Rapids went scoreless in a 4-0 loss to Seattle, a 1-0 loss to San Jose and a scoreless draw with Sporting Kansas City in its first three games.
The Loons allowed Bassett too much space and time on a ball played from right wing that went over everyone. That is, until Bassett contained it on the other side of 18-yard box.
Bassett beat two defenders with an angled left-footed strike that eluded them and everyone else. That included Loons diving goalkeeper Dayne St. Clair, who couldn't stop it from rolling just inside the far, right post.
It came in the 49th minute, just before before Loons second-half substitute Luis Amarilla scored the equalizer.
It came in the 53rd-minute on a penalty kick awarded for a hand ball called on Colorado defender Danny Wilson inside the 18-yard box.
Amarilla stepped up after replacing starting striker Mender Garcia and scored after Rapids goalkeeper William Yarbrough guessed to his right and Amarilla struck a shot the other way.
The Rapids had three dangerous scoring chances shortly thereafter, including Wilson's header off a free kick that hit both St. Clair's hand and the crossbar.
It the 68th minute, Loons forward Bongokuhle Hlongwane scored on a goal on a 3-on-1, but he was ruled offsides by his right foot.
Loons coach Adrian Heath left usual starters Wil Trapp, Fragapane and Zarek Valentin off Saturday's starting 11 and designated as substitutes. That was intended to save them from risk of injury and protect them for next Saturday's home game against Vancouver.
As many as seven teammates will be gone for that one game to play with their national teams during a FIFA window for international play.
"It's not ideal, but that's the way it is," Heath said on Friday. "We've got a couple challenging games up now, one on the road. Having those guys gone will present its own challenges. Tomorrow's lineup will reflect the fact that next week we'll have so many away."
Heath's lineup reconfiguring made Dotson a starter in the central midfield alongside Kervin Arriaga for the first time since an ACL torn last April ended his 2022 season.
It also moved Joseph Rosales into a starting spot in Fragapane's place, alongside versatile midfielder Robin Lod in the middle and Hlongwane on the right wing. DJ Taylor started at right back, where Valentin had started the season's first two weeks.
Lod moved into that No. 10 playmaking spot vacated by suspended and absent star Emanuel Reynoso.
Lod is headed for his Finland team as are Hondurans Arriaga and Rosales to theirs. Canada's Dayne St. Clair, South Africa's Hlongwane, New Zealand's Michael Boxall and possibly Jamaica's Kemar Lawrence, whose national team called him Thursday.
Those seven started Saturday.
Most of the Loons headed for international play were scheduled to fly on the team charter back to Minnesota after Saturday's game and then scatter around the world. Boxall planned to fly commercially from Denver to Chicago and then on to Auckland.
All those players are expected back in time for an April 1 game at expansion team St. Louis CITY.
The Loons played on a snow-covered field in 30-degree weather last week in their home-opening 1-1 draw with New York Red Bulls. The conditions brought criticism from both teams' coaches.
Grass came up in fistfuls Saturday night at Dick's Sporting Goods field as well. Arriaga dug some up when he slipped, fell and ended up writhing on the field for a little time in the 23rd minute.
On a partly cloudy Saturday night in suburban Denver, temperature at kickoff was a chilly 43 degrees.
Colorado dominated ball possession in the first half, 64 to 36 percent and had two shots on goal to the Loons' one. But both teams went to halftime scoreless.
The Star Tribune did not send the writer of this article to the game. This was written using a broadcast, interviews and other material.