Minnesota United and Real Salt Lake settled for a draw Sunday evening at Allianz Field, with the Loons extending their winless streak to four matches. The Loons could not find their feet Sunday evening, despite recent success against Real Salt Lake at home.
The Loons thrashed Real Salt Lake, 4-0, just three weeks ago. It was a match that saw the Loons run rampant in the second half, scoring four times while asserting their dominance on the field. Things were different Sunday evening in St. Paul, though.
RSL held the Loons scoreless, even though Minnesota had 14 shots, with 7 on net. MNUFC also led their foes in possession, passes completed and conceded 11 less fouls. Head coach Adrian Heath felt happy with the result, but noted that earning three points at home is crucial for his side to succeed.
“I thought the first half, in the middle of the field, we were very good. Not enough threat in the final third. I thought we rectified that. We tweaked the shape a wee bit at halftime and I would settle for a game like that every week where we get, you know, not many opportunities conceded, but, how many did we have? I could think of maybe five really, really good opportunities,” Heath said. “So, a lot of positives there. Disappointment, obviously, I thought we did more than enough to win the game. And, if we play like that and create them chances, invariably, we will win the games.”
Heath only used one substitution in the second half, bringing on Marlon Hairston for Jacori Hayes in the 77th minute. When asked about his decision making in that sense, Heath replied emphatically with his thoughts.
“Well, I keep saying this. There’s a fascination with substitutions in America. I don’t understand it at times. When you’re creating the chances that we are, in the second half, and are completely dominant, why would we upset the rhythm in the team? I could understand it if we aren’t creating chances, we don’t look as though we’re on the front foot, something isn’t right, but, the way we were playing in the second half, I think all I would have done was disrupt the rhythm of the game.”
Heath mentioned how he did not want to ruin the rhythm of the game for the Loons, and although that’s a fair statement to make, it has to be noted that his team was visibly tired at the end of the match. Over their past three matches, the Loons hadn’t seen more than 42% of the ball in one match, with an average of 40.3% of possession going their way. In addition to that, the Loons were averaging 362 completed passes per match during that span. Sunday evening against RSL, the Loons had 58% possession and completed 548 passes over the course of 90 minutes; mind you, that was their fourth match in a span of 14 days. To not utilize players off the bench in a late-game situation, especially when you have your team constantly moving and retaining possession, seems like a baffling move from the Loons head coach. With the likes of Mason Toye, Raheem Edwards and even Aaron Schoenfeld on the bench, one felt as if a fresh pair of legs could have salvaged three points considering the opportunities the Loons were getting.
The opportunities came and went in the second half, with an Emmanuel Reynoso freekick being tipped over the bar and a Bakaye Dibassy header bouncing off the post in the 87th minute, but there’s a lurking feeling in the players minds that something just isn’t clicking for the team right now. Captain Michael Boxall elaborated on that and the teams four game winless streak postgame.
“I thought we created a lot changes in the Houston game, but then aside from that … just in that final third, things aren’t quite clicking as they should or as they have in games where, like, the last time Salt Lake came here. So, it’s always difficult when you’re switching up the combinations, between injury and availability, and what not. It’s just we haven’t gotten things clicking quite how we’d like them too,” Boxall said.
Boxall was asked if it was a point earned or two points dropped, and he said “I’ll tell you in six or seven games,” with him going on to mention how tight the MLS Western Conference is.
At the end of Sunday evening, a point earned at Allianz Field saw the Loons make a small jump in the table up to 6th place with 19 points. They will have a week off, which Heath thinks will be “crucial” for his team, before they start the second phase of the Phase 2 restart where they’ll manage to play nine matches over the course of 36 days. They begin Phase 2 in Cincinnati on Oct. 3rd and finish on Nov. 8th at Allianz Field.