It was a performance that reminded many of something they’ve seen from Minnesota United before: abhorrent performance on the road.
Last year set an incredible precedence for ineptitude as Minnesota finished an entire Major League Soccer campaign with a road record of 1-14-2. The present campaign has, at times, appeared to be different. Entering this contest, the Loons were sporting a somewhat healthy 3-3-0 record away from Allianz Field.
That narrative took a swift knock to the shin as United looked completely devoid of heart in a 2-0 defeat to the Chicago Fire.
“Disappointing,” Minnesota head coach Adrian Heath said. “I don’t think we ever really got going this evening. Showed a little bit more endeavor, a little bit more fight, a little bit more enthusiasm in the second half. In the first half, we were on the back foot, we were second-best in nearly every aspect of the game. We showed a little bit more [energy] in the second half.”
Even Heath’s comments sound dejected. The Loon’s coach struggled to hide his team’s cardinal sin on the evening: poor effort.
All that said, there may be some legitimate reasons for United failings on this occasion.
The Chicago roster is quietly one of the most robust in MLS as they essentially roster four designated players, including internationals Nicolas Gaitan and Bastian Schweinsteiger.
The Fire also entered this game on the back of two of their most impressive results of the season. LAFC are the favorites for the MLS throne and thus far have looked insurmountable, forcing almost all opponents to bend the knee. Chicago is among only four teams to force them to drop points and did so with a 1-1 draw. And just last week, the Fire further proved their legitimacy by thrashing New England 5-0.
Both goals allowed by United on Saturday were on counter attacks.
“We fell asleep and good teams punish you,” United defender Brent Kallman said.
Coaching decisions from Minnesota may have also played a role.
Heath made the eyebrow-raising decision to not only set a lineup devoid of some of his most dynamic offensive players (Darwin Quintero, Kevin Molino, Abu Danladi), but to once again play an ultra-conservative starting XI, including Ethan Finlay, who has yet to score in 11 appearances this season.
“We have created opportunities this season,” Heath said. “Tonight, we haven’t. Even the last couple of games at home we’ve created a number of opportunities. I think we only had five shots on goal this evening. I don’t think we had enough energy in the first half. Our energy levels were poor, we didn’t get enough men forward, we didn’t get forward with any conviction.”