A 0-0 draw saw Minnesota United FC and Nashville SC leave the pitch scoreless following the teams’ first-ever clash Tuesday evening at Nissan Stadium.
Nashville out-possessed the Loons in both halves of the field while completing 502 passes to Minnesota’s 392, but the Loons out-shot the home side 13 to 10, with four shots ending up on target. The Loons best opportunity of the night came in the 65th minute of play when Ethan Finlay broke free down the middle of the pitch and found himself with a 1v1 situation against Nashville goalkeeper Joe Willis — Finlay attempted to chip Willis, who read the play and made himself big to block the attempt.
“It’s clear. We weren’t sharp in the final third,” Finlay said. “The last pass, the last shot, some of that decision making, hand up. If I go to chip Joe Willis there, and you look silly if he stands up, and you look like a genius, like Messi, if he goes down. You know, you make a decision in that moment and that was the decision I made. I’ll look at it, I’ll go back analyze and see what I could have done a little bit differently… but I’ll take a lot of positives from tonight. “
MNUFC manager Adrian Heath made four changes to the starting XI going into the evening due to the absences of both Chase Gasper (yellow-card accumulation suspension) and Jan Gregus (international duty). Bakaye Dibassy subbed in at the LB position for the Loons while Jacori Hayes filled in for Gregus in the formidable 4-2-3-1 formation alongside Hassani Dotson. Finlay made his return to the pitch following a lengthy spell on the sidelines due to injury; he earned Minnesota’s MOTM honors on the night, too. Starters Robin Lod and Kei Kamara were rested, but Kamara came on as the Loons only sub.
A point on the road is a big plus for the Loons, but lingering problems still exist. The Loons still cannot find the back of the net on a consistent basis, and on top of that, their midfield has been sloppily giving the ball away on far too many occasions. The Loons only had a 78% completion rate in passing on the night, and in addition to that, they’ve only scored five goals in their last six matches — a looming problem that dates back to 2019.
The Loons were one of the hottest teams in MLS in the summer of 2019, which included an appearance in the U.S. Open Cup Final, but Heath’s side cooled off down the final stretch of the regular season. They finished their final nine matches of the regular season with a record of 3-2-3 (WLD), scoring only nine goals over the course of those nine matches. Ironically enough, the Loons were given nine matches to complete their regular season in 2020 (Pt. 2 of Phase 2), which began this past weekend against FC Cincinnati. In nearly identical fashion, Minnesota began their final nine matches with a victory and a draw this season; the same as 2019.
The emerging question for Minnesota is how to improve moving forward. They cannot afford to drop points like they did against Nashville Tuesday evening. On paper, it was a very winnable match for the Loons, and it could have been an easy three points on the road. Heath only used one out of his allotted five substitutions, and they started a striker who hasn’t scored a league goal this season. The decisions going into the evening can rightfully be questioned, but the result is in the books. As cliché as it may sound, you can’t change what’s already happened.
The Loons have the roster they want, they have four out of seven home matches to close the season out with and they’re riding a now three match unbeaten streak that includes three straight clean sheets. If there was ever a time to be brimming with confidence, it’s now. They have added their most expensive player ever in DP Emmanuel Reynoso, they’ve signed Kamara, veteran goalscorer, and now have both Finlay and Ozzie Alonso back and healthy.
On paper, a full strength Loons side looks like a top-tier team in MLS. A front four of Molino, Kamara, Lod/Finlay and Reynoso is a formidable opponent; it’s time to start seeing goals coming from that group. The Loons can’t climb the table if they don’t find the back of the net — a defense can only keep so many clean sheets or hold an offense to minimal scoring every so often. If there was ever a time for a leader to step up, it’s now.
Plus, who doesn’t want to see an outdoor playoff game at Allianz Field in the middle of November?