A three-match winless slump at the start of October had threatened to jeopardize Minnesota United’s playoff chances in the highly-competitive Western Conference, but Wednesday’s win against the Philadelphia Union has the Loons back on track.
Adrian Heath’s side has won back-to-back matches, moving two points clear of eighth-place Real Salt Lake with four matches remaining on their schedule. The Loons fought back to earn a 3-2 home win over the Union to keep the pressure on in the West.
“It’s good result for us,” forward Adrien Hunou said postmatch. “You have to keep going because we know that there are four games [left], four finals to reach the playoffs. It’s important to stay focused. It’s four games and we have to keep going. It was a good game against a good team that is third in the other conference. We have to keep going and take every game after tonight’s.
“We believe in our team,” Hunou said. “We knew we had five [more games] – before tonight’s game. We know we have a good team and good players. We have to keep going with confidence and do the best we can and we will see positive results.”
Similar to the 3-1 loss to Colorado on October 10, Hunou scored the opening goal, but the Loons eventually fell down early in the second half after Union midfielder Daniel Gazdag added his second goal of the match for a 2-1 advantage. The pressure was on from the home fans in St. Paul, but Heath’s side grinded their way back in front after goals from Robin Lod and Franco Fragapane in a four-minute span flipped the hosts back in front.
Romain Metanire’s red card in the 76th minute gave Jim Curtin’s side a lifeline with 10+ minutes to go, but the Loons bunkered down and finished off the victory. Tyler Miller denied Paxten Aaronson’s late effort, while the Loons also blocked four additional Union attempts, keeping the hosts in front for good.
With the Vancouver Whitecaps, LAFC, and the San Jose Earthquakes all winning on Wednesday night, the Loons’ triumph came at an important time to move up the standings for now.
The pass and the…
…wait for it…
…wait for it…
— Minnesota United FC (@MNUFC) October 21, 2021
“Yeah I think that’s been a big focus for us over the last couple of weeks, especially after the Colorado match,” Loons midfielder Hassani Dotson said. “I think we’ve all talked about it like this is crunch time, and I’m just proud of the boys and the effort they put on the pitch today.”
“It’s huge,” Dotson said about the win coming at an important time. “I mean you look at the West, it’s tight from I believe fourth all the way down to ninth. So, any three points we can get, we’re happy when they come.”
Picking up three points at this stage of the season is important, but doing so against another playoff contender adds an extra bit of momentum for a team. The Union came to Minnesota knowing they were also in the thick of a playoff run, knowing second through seventh place was divided by eight points.
As for the Loons, back-to-back wins over Austin FC and the Union set them up for important matches against LAFC and Vancouver, two clubs sitting behind them in the West table. Pressure will be on the club to deliver six more points over that span, and after closing out Wednesday’s win without any slip-ups, the Loons are confident in their abilities to get the job done.
“Yeah. Yeah, it does. I said last week, it’s going to go to the last game,” Heath said. “Saturday is a huge game for us, but it’s a huge game for LAFC. Us winning the game here this weekend could make a big swing. But, hey, we know it’s going to be tough. It’s probably one of the most expensively assembled teams in the league, well-coached and really good individuals. So, it’s a big test for us again for sure.”