Sunday’s match was likely the most impressive performance in Minnesota United’s short MLS history. It was a 5-1 battering of Los Angeles FC, a standout victory that capped a standout week that saw the Loons collect nine points from three matches.
But, despite the banner week and the lopsided win over a team widely seen as an MLS Cup contender, Loons captain Francisco Calvo says they deserve more respect.
“I mean, for me, the similarity of it is Atlanta or LA. The only thing that I said before, is like, MLS give too much to that kind of teams,” Calvo said. “Just because we didn’t spend $20 million, that doesn’t mean that we had that bad team, you know? Because, we beat Atlanta over there, we beat these guys over here.
I think we prove — we don’t have to prove to nobody that we are a good team. We need to prove to ourselves that we are a good team. And I think, we are close in the locker room right now. We are getting more strong and together as a family. And our first goal is to get into the playoffs. And we’re getting close, we’re getting close. And that’s our first goal. And then when you get into playoffs, it’s a different term.”
As things stand, Minnesota United is fighting for that playoff spot. It feels like an unlikely fact given the team’s struggles a year ago and the up-and-down performances to start the season. However, following the nine-point week, the Loons are just two points behind Real Salt Lake for the sixth and final playoff spot.
Plenty of credit will go to Darwin Quintero, who has stepped in and immediately become one of the league’s more dynamic Designated Players. The Colombian star has provided nine goals and six assists in his 16 matches with the club, including a run of six goals and four assists over a stretch that has seen the Loons collect 12 of a possible 15 points.
“He’s in that Robbie Keane — who was probably the best player in the league for two or three years — [Sebastian] Giovinco, [Miguel] Almirón. He’s in that company,” said Adrian Heath. “And no disrespect to them players, he’s played for as big of clubs as them. You know, so, great to coach. Great to work with. Has a great presence in the locker room. But, he’s a tough ball player. And as I say, as long as we keep him fit and healthy and work with him and put things on ahead of him and we will continue to. We’ll cause teams problems.”
It hasn’t just been Quintero though. Christian Ramirez has stepped in with three goals over the last two games following a four-game scoreless run. Miguel Ibarra is playing the best soccer of his short MLS career, having contributed six goals and six assists this season after scoring three and assisting four last time out. The defense, led by Calvo’s return and strong play from Bobby Shuttleworth, has been improved in recent weeks despite still ranking near the bottom of MLS.
The Loons still have a long way to go to earn the respect Calvo craves and the team still has a big push ahead of them if they hope to make the postseason. However, the recent run is a good start for a team that is suddenly very much in the hunt.
“The mentality, we’ve talked about it and it’s great,” Quintero said. “I think [the club] is getting a winning mentality, that every game we need to go out and win wherever we play. In these three games at home we’ve shown that we want to be playing to fight for the finals.
“That’s our goal. That’s our goal,” Calvo added. “We talk about it before. If we get the nine points this week, our confidence is gonna get high. And the teams are gonna be careful now to play against us because, I’ve said before, I don’t think we have to change anything. Anything.”