The Colorado Rapids hosted Minnesota United FC on Saturday night, looking to extend their four-game unbeaten run. Colorado opened up an early 1-0 lead on Kei Kamara’s 29th minute header, despite MNUFC’s control of possession in the first half. MNUFC would half chances in the second half, but the Rapids’ defense maintained discipline to close out the 1-0 win at home.
Here are three takeaways from Colorado’s 1-0 win over Minnesota United.
During Colorado’s abysmal start to 2019, defense was the team’s most glaring issue. But since bringing in centerback Lalas Abubakar on loan from Columbus Crew, the Rapids continue to make improvement on that front. Saturday’s clean sheet was the team’s second this season and Abubakar played a large role as a starter in both 1-0 results against L.A. and Minnesota United.
“He’s a great competitor and such a physical specimen back there,” Casey said of Abubakar. “He’s brought just so much positivity and energy to our group. You saw it again. He loves to defend. That’s what he wants to do when he’s out there.”
Against MNUFC Abubakar managed four defensive clearances and one shot blocked, all of which occurred inside Colorado’s box. It was vital in preserving the win while the visitors were held to just nine shots, two of which were on target.
A bit surprisingly, Kamara, who has arguably been the Rapids’ most important offensive piece throughout the course of 2019 had been in a bit of a goal scoring slump throughout Colorado’s hot streak. His last goal from the run of play came in late April in a 4-1 loss to Chicago. Shortly after, Kamara scored a brace in a 3-2 loss to Vancouver, but only from spot kicks.
A sign of his team-first mentality however, Kamara has expressed that wins are more important to him than scoring.
“It’s funny, I said to the guys’ that all the goals I’ve scored since the beginning of the year — we haven’t gotten any points from it, so I was a little nervous actually after I scored, I said, I hope it’s not one of those days,” he told the media postgame.
But Kamara’s utility doesn’t simply lie in his goal scoring ability, either. The Rapids’ striker has also chipped in defensively throughout the season, as he did again against MNUFC.
“Conor [Casey] was telling me go up, get up, get up, so when Tim [Howard] is kicking the ball I’m up there,” Kamara continued. “I said no, that’s not happening, I’m going to go defend because I have to make sure that we come away with all three points right now.”
After tying an MLS record for the worst start to a season, Colorado has suddenly and perhaps almost miraculously played itself back into the playoff picture with its current five-game unbeaten run. With the win on Saturday, the Rapids lifted themselves from the Western Conference cellar and are now just four points shy of the redline.
To the better, Casey has mostly deflected talk of playoffs and the buzz around Colorado’s meteoric rise, maintaining a workman-like focus and culture around the club since taking over the reins as interim manager.
“Again, we’re so focused on what we’re doing every day and just preparing for our next opponent and we’re going to continue doing that for the rest of the season,” he explained. “I’m not going to spend any time looking at [standings]. It’s great that we’ve come a long way in a short amount of time, but we realize that we’ve got a lot of games left in the season and we’ve got to keep focused, keep pushing each other, and we’ll continue to be able to keep getting wins.”