MNUFC’s playoff life is at stake following yet another loss

Minnesota United FC went on a summer stretch that saw them claim the most points of any MLS team over 11 matches, with a record of 8-1-2. Since, the Loons are winless in six  (0-5-1) and have been shutout four times by their respective opposition. It’s been a catastrophic failure on all ends of the pitch, from the attack and the midfield to the defense. The Loons went from “Darkhorse MLS Cup contenders” to – now – fighting for their lives on the final day of the season.

Simply put, it has been the most bewildering storyline across the league over the past month. 

The Loons had a chance to change that storyline in San Jose Saturday evening, where they went on the road to play the last place Western Conference side. However, their performance was not reflective of the table standings. The Loons played like a team who should be at the bottom of their conference, while the Earthquakes put on a respectable performance in front of their home fans.

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Loons head coach Adrian Heath expressed more than disappointment in the postgame press conference, with mixed feelings of both anger and sadness. “When you consider what was at stake, that’s a pretty difficult pill to swallow, to be honest.”

The Loons fell 2-0 on an evening where if they would have claimed three points, they would have clinched a spot in the 2022 MLS playoffs. Every other result around the league over the weekend that they needed, ended in their favor [except Vancouver beating Austin]. However, the Loons simply failed to show up and play to the level that they needed to.

“We weren’t good enough. There’s a few basic rules that you have to do when you go into football matches. Some of it’s compared about ability, some of it is about ability. But unless you’re actually up for the physical contest of playing against your guy and imposing yourself on your guy, and I don’t think we did enough of that all over the field,” Heath said.

The emotions of the entire team – and their performances of late – were captured postgame in an honest and candid conversation between Heath and the media. 

“All of them. Mad. Mad with the performance this evening. Mad with individuals, most of them. Disappointed. I think we’ve got more about us than what we’re showing and if we get an opportunity – hopefully next weekend – to still have a say in making the postseason, then we can count ourselves fortunate. When you consider the run we’ve had in the second half of the season, to then finish it like we’ve done is really disappointing.”

Their performances of late have tied a club record for the worst six-match stretch in the Loons MLS existence. However, across MLS – they have the worst record + goal-differential across the league – over the past six matches. It’s been baffling to see the performances unfold, week after week, yet the blame cannot be pinpointed on one player. 

Emanuel Reynoso was in the conversation for league MVP at the end of August, and he’s now being looked at as someone who won’t even be a finalist. The absence of Bakaye Dibassy has been heavily noticed, but his replacement Brent Kallman is one of two Loons to find the back of the net over the past six matches, with Mender Garcia being the other.

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Minnesota’s season is not over yet, though, as they still have a lifeline going into the Decision Day… and goalkeeper Dayne St. Clair realized that postgame Saturday.

“We knew if we won tonight, we put ourselves in a great position to potentially clinching, now we have to wait another week to do that. A lot of pressure going into that last game. Big players show up in big moments so we’re going to need a lot of guys to have great performances to push us over the line against Vancouver.”

The Loons host the Vancouver Whitecaps at Allianz Field on Sunday, October 9 with kickoff slated for 4:00 pm CT. It’s genuinely their last chance, and simply put, if they win . . . they’re in. If they lose, they’re out – and if they draw, they’re still in. All the Loons have to do is not lose and they qualify for the 2022 MLS Playoffs.

The Loons have already beaten the Whitecaps on the road this season, knocking them off 3-1 early in the summer. However, Vancouver is in fine form. They’ve won three straight, knocking off the LA Galaxy, Austin FC and the Seattle Sounders. Nothing whatsoever is guaranteed, as the Whitecaps are also looking for three points that could see them clinch a playoff spot.

The scenario for the Loons is simple: win or draw, don’t even think about losing.

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