Following a horrific start to their 2021 campaign that saw them begin the season 0-4, Minnesota United have tabled an incredible run of eight matches unbeaten, including an impressive road win against the Portland Timbers on Saturday. The Loons have managed to go six games unbeaten, acquiring four clean sheets in the process while nabbing 14 out of a possible 18 points during that span.
In short, the Loons look rejuvenated. They look like the confident side that tabled a Cinderella run in last year’s playoffs, making it all the way to the national semifinals. The turnaround can be attributed to many different factors, whether it’s a healthy Bakaye Dibassy and Emanuel Reynoso, the addition of Hassani Dotson in the midfield or newcomers Adrien Hunou and Franco Fragapane.
Frankly, it’s a combination of all of the above — and more. The changes made behind the scenes, including what looks like a more frequent substitution pattern from Loons’ boss Adrian Heath, have Minnesota running in hot form. It’s good news for the Loons, who now have a chance to snag another three points over the 4th of July weekend against an out-of-form San Jose Earthquakes Saturday at Allianz Field.
Their turnaround has been one of the biggest storylines in MLS over the past month, and they have caught the eyes of every team in the league. The Loons have gone from dead last (13th) in the West to 5th over eight matchdays. It has been a sufficient turnaround that has appeased fans’ worries, but what has led to this miraculous change in course?
It’s hard not to look at Dibassy as the main reason. The 31-year-old defender missed the first six matches of the season, and since his return to the starting XI, the Loons have two clean sheets and are structurally solid all across their backline.
In addition to Dibassy’s defensive heroics, the two offensive newcomers, Fragapane and Hunou, have been directly involved in this resurgence.
Hunou had two goals in four appearances, including the winner in the Loons’ impressive win in Portland. In addition to his goal scoring feats, Hunou has registered nine shots on target out of a possible 14 and has an 82.2% passing success rate on the pitch. It looks like the Frenchman might finally be the striker the Loons have been after since they joined MLS as an expansion side in 2017.
Fragapane could very well end up being the steal of the season. He was signed as a TAM player from Talleres in Argentina this spring. He has two goals and two assists through three appearances, and is boasting an astounding 83% passing success rate and a 100% success rate of scoring with shots on target. Heath’s two newest additions may prove to be the spark the club needed to find motivation on the pitch, and they now have the opportunity to link up with Reynoso, last year’s league MVP candidate, to wreak havoc in the opposition’s third for the remaining two-thirds of the season.
Don’t forget, either, that both Jan Gregus and Robin Lod have been absent for the entire month of June while competing in the UEFA EURO 2020 competition with their respective national teams. The two Loons internationals now return for a chance to get back in the starting XI and lead Minnesota to another playoff run.