Minnesota United’s collapse down the stretch has been bewildering at every turn. It began with a fairly understandable defeat in Utah – it was a midweek game, it was a thousand degrees in Salt Lake City, and MNUFC was resting a bunch of players. It was easy enough to write it off at the time.
But since then, I can practically trace the creeping dread just through my own blogs here at Sota Soccer. At first the losing streak was merely an opportunity; then there were numbers that showed that maybe it wasn’t even that bad; then I invented a whole pile of excuses, mostly to do with injuries.
Last Saturday against San Jose, though, it was hard to see anything but a team that has completely lost its way.
Calling the performance “disjointed” would be kind. “Incoherent” was probably more accurate. It was a festival of misplaced passes; the team’s energy level was stuck at “drowsy,” which seems impossible, given that the Loons were in the penultimate game of a playoff chase.
Manager Adrian Heath’s quotes following the game made him sound as if he was at his wit’s end. “I think they [San Jose] wanted to win the game more than we did and that showed with their attitude,” he said. “When you consider what was at stake, that’s a pretty difficult pill to swallow, to be honest.” Asked how something like that can happen, he said, “I wish I knew. Maybe it’s the makeup of some of the people we’ve got. Maybe we have to look at that.”
At some point, it’s not about tactics or formations or injuries or even about roster building. At some point, it’s on the players to produce, and Minnesota United’s players haven’t – especially on offense.
Emmanuel Reynoso has missed three of the six games in this skid – rested once, injured once, and suspended once – but has no goals and one assist in that period. Luis Amarilla has no goals, no assists, and just two shots on target. Franco Fragapane doesn’t have a goal, an assist, or a shot on target, and he foolishly got himself suspended for two games. Robin Lod’s positional flexibility has been very valuable, but he doesn’t have a goal since May 22 or an assist since June 29.
I’ve tried to dig deep for answers, a search that has gone on for years, as the Loons have swung back and forth between a team that looks like one of the best in the league, and a team that looks like it’d be lucky to ever play a playoff game.
The truth might be a lot simpler: Minnesota United is good when its best players play well, and bad when they don’t.
I’m not sure it matters, particularly, what formation MNUFC plays on Sunday, or whether Robin Lod is completely healthy, or anything like that. If the Loons play with energy and confidence, if their best players lead from the front and produce the way they’re supposed to, then Vancouver’s going to have a tough day. If they don’t, it doesn’t particularly matter which team is in the other color jerseys; the Loons will be lucky to get anything at all.
We’ll have to see which players show up.