By: Jacob Schneider
The 2022 MLS campaign has not been what Minnesota United hoped it would be through 16 matchdays. They’re struggling – in all areas of the pitch – including from the touchline. Their strikers are not scoring goals, their defenders are making sloppy mistakes and tactical errors have, presumably, been costly.
However, taking a look at the Western Conference, that’s been a trend for multiple 2021 playoff sides. Sporting Kansas City, Colorado Rapids, Portland Timbers and even the Seattle Sounders are all in the same boat as the Loons. As things stand, just five points separate the 7th place Sounders and the 12th place Loons; the final playoff spot. By no means is this a doom and gloom season for Minnesota, but these trends we have seen in recent weeks are worrying as we near the halfway point of the season.
Following MNUFC’s disastrous 2-1 loss against Inter Miami Saturday evening, where they conceded twice in the last three minutes, I asked followers what they thought went wrong, what trends they noticed during the match, their overall thoughts and more. I answered a few of those responses in-depth here.
10 shots and 1 goal is definitely a problem. Amarilla had a woeful first half, where it seemed as if he almost did not trust himself enough to get the shot off. There were multiple opportunities where the Paraguayan had a chance to first-time-hit the shot, but chose to either take a second touch and turn or dribble away from the opportunity. He’s lacking confidence in himself despite Adrian Heath trusting him in the starting XI for two straight matches after a stint on the bench.
The Loons easily could have gone into the half with a 1-0, maybe 2-0 lead, but there was a severe lack of clinical finishing in the box. Lod had a quiet first 45 and Fragapane has struggled to be an influence all season. Reynoso can only do so much when those around him can’t finish what he created.
You’re right – both Vassilev and Bou have come off the bench to score game-winners against the Loons in their past two matches. Game-changing subs, really.
The Loons don’t have that, and they haven’t for quite some time. Depth is arguably the most important part of a squad and a player should be able to fill in from a rotation perspective with ease and without issue, right? For the Loons, they don’t have someone on their bench who can do that right now. Hlongwane has yet to score an MLS goal yet, Danladi just recently returned from injury and Hunou is all but on his way out of the club after an unsuccessful stint here. This summer transfer window is going to be MASSIVE for Minnesota and their hopes to compete with the best in the West.
Minnesota United 100% misses Romain Metanire, but it’s easy to forget how influential Hassani Dotson was too. Metanire is a coach’s dream in terms of a fullback who is able to make forward runs and deliver a ball into the box. His attacking prowess is what made him so influential to the XI, and what previously made him an MLS ALL STAR. Now, however, injuries have plagued him and there’s a chance he doesn’t return to the pitch in a Loons kit for quite some time.DJ Taylor has emerged as a worthy replacement, but he lacks the speed and crossing that Metanire possesses.
Regarding this transfer window, yeah, it’s going to be very important. I highly doubt any MLS team would use a DP slot on a fullback/wingback but it’s definitely an area where the Loons need to look at improving. With Hunou’s departure and the possibility of buying down Amarilla’s contract that means there could be as many as two DP slots opening this summer.
Now it’s a waiting game.
When Joseph Rosales went down with an injury and was replaced by Jacori Hayes, things definitely started to swing in the favor of Inter Miami. Rosales was influential in directing the midfield all match, and his chemistry with Arriaga was through the roof. Hayes made just his 4th substitute appearance of the year and struggled to grow into the game.
It wasn’t that Wil Trapp being unavailable hurt the Loons, it’s that with Rosales having to leave due to injury they didn’t have another player like him on the bench to fill his role for the final 20+ minutes of the match.
I agree here re: the back-five. It felt 10 minutes too early, considering the Loons scored the go-ahead opener in the 65th and then opted to park the bus in the 70th minute. They had the attacking momentum, they had the flow of the match and then there was a tactical choice made to sit back and absorb a bit more pressure. I don’t know if I agree with it, but I also understand it.
Heath should be able to trust veterans like Kallman and Hayes to come into the match and not be a step behind. They had fresh legs and in the Miami heat they arguably should have been a step ahead of every other player. Instead, Kallman found himself out of position on both goals and Hayes struggled to make an impact on the game whatsoever.
All-in-all, it felt like a disastrous final 20 minutes. Everything possible went wrong, and you’d hope that this was the final learning experience the squad needed to turn their season around.