Minnesota United FC can take a big step toward securing a third consecutive playoff bid when they host the Colorado Rapids on Sunday afternoon in St. Paul, Minn.
Minnesota (10-9-8, 38 points) entered the weekend narrowly gripping the seventh and final playoff place in the Western Conference, but could move above both the LA Galaxy and Real Salt Lake (39 points each) with a victory while most MLS teams take off for the October FIFA international window.
The Loons are unbeaten in their last three matches at home and received good news from the league disciplinary committee earlier this week when it overturned Emanuel Reynoso's red card suspension.
But Minnesota is still without five international call-ups, including leading scorer and Finland winger Robin Lod (seven goals).
Manager Adrian Heath isn't entertaining excuses.
"We're fully aware of what was going to happen a few weeks ago when we got the invitation letters from the federations," Heath told reporters this week. "We knew who was going to be gone. That's what it is. Next man up. Step up."
Colorado (13-5-9, 48 points) won the previous two meetings this season at home, and comes into the third with a similar personnel situation as its opponent.
Midfielders Kellyn Acosta and Mark-Anthony Kaye are the most notable of the Rapids' three international absences.
Defender Lucas Esteves also saw his red card suspension rescinded by the league and is available. And injured goalkeeper William Yarbrough is questionable after missing last weekend's 3-0 loss at the Seattle Sounders.
That humbling defeat opened a stretch of three consecutive away matches for the third-place Rapids as they approach a 50-point threshold that typically guarantees a playoff spot.
Manager Robin Fraser insists there won't be a repeat performance in Minnesota, even with his short-handed squad.
"We've already addressed a number of things and certainly expect it to be a little more cohesive this week," Fraser said. "We've actually missed those guys quite a few times this year. We really feel like for us it's business as usual."
--Field Level Media