Minnesota United fell one game short of reaching a first MLS Cup Final in 2020, but the new season has seen the Loons look like anything but a title contender. Saturday’s latest defeat was the prime example of the lack of confidence within the group and how much work needs to be done to turn things around.
Adrian Heath’s side saw a 2-0 first-half lead evaporate in an eventual 3-2 road loss to the Colorado Rapids. Robin Fraser’s group scored three goals in the final 33 minutes to
With zero points on the board and a -7 goal differential, the Loons aren’t looking anywhere near the playoff picture just yet.
“No,” Heath said when asked about imagining a 0-0 start. “But, that’s harshly how it is when you defend like we’ve done on the road. Seven goals. The irony is, is the two from us in the first half have been probably the best we’ve played. I thought the first half tonight we were exceptional at times. All the things that we did well in the first half, we didn’t do in the second half.”
“As I say, we made poor choices with the ball. Poor choices without the ball. And, obviously, if we continually turn the ball over to the other team in your own half, and allow them time and space to put the ball in your box with quality, invariably people get on the end of it. And, I just don’t think we’ve done that well tonight.”
Despite first goals of the season for Emanuel Reynoso and Hassani Dotson, the Loons were terrible defensively in the second half, allowing the Rapids to score and eventually turn the match in their favor for good. The Loons were not only out possessed 57%-to-43%, but also outshot 14-to-8 and even saw Cole Bassett strike the post early in the second half.
After being one of the league’s best defensive units in 2020, the Loons have conceded 10 goals through the opening four matches with six of those 10 coming after halftime. The continued absence of central defender Bakaye Dibassy to injury has forced Heath to play converted fullback Jukka Raitala at centerback. Raitala’s struggles with the new position, coupled with the lack of speed along the backline due to Dibassy’s absence has left the Loons vulnerable in the back.
Now last season’s Western Conference Finalists sit without a point on the board and in danger of falling deeper into a hole in the league table.
“I feel that the second half we didn’t even have momentum on the ball and they came strong, but we knew that – we talked about it, that they were going to come strong the second half,” midfielder Jan Gregus said. “But we looked a little bit jaded, not good on the ball, not keeping the ball, they were all over the place, scored first, and then we maybe got a little bit stressed out (or something) and then they kept coming and coming…but like I said, should never happen again. We should be good enough to keep the result 2-0 and go with a win.”
The good news for Minnesota United is that help is reportedly on the way in the form of transfer targets Adrien Hunau and Franco Fragapane. That pair should bolster the attack, but it won’t address Minnesota’s defensive woes, will could continue until Dibassy returns from injury.
The Loons return to Minnesota for the start of a two-game homestead against Vancouver (May 12th) and FC Dallas (May 15th) before ending the month at Real Salt Lake. Allianz Field is a good place to turn things around, but the Loons are fully aware they need to improve considerably if the losses are going to start turning into wins.
“To be honest, we are not in the place to look at that [the playoff picture] right now, we have to win the next game and then win, and win, and win,” Gregus said. “We have to look in front of ourselves and right now we are not even in position to look for the playoffs with these kinds of performances, like for example the second half.”
“Well, we have to play better,” Heath said about the quick turnaround this week. “We have to play for 90 minutes and not 45. For sure. And, obviously, it’s a huge game for us on Wednesday. If we’re not aware of it, we should be. We’re at this stage now where we gotta start winning some games and getting some points on the board.”