Following a stunning 1-0 victory over the league-leading Seattle Sounders last Sunday, Minnesota United FC began a week of training in good hopes and high spirits.
The Loons have managed to secure 18 points from their last nine matches, a run of form that gaffer Adrian Heath called “incredible.” The word choice by the Englishman makes sense in this situation. They started the year in an utterly dreadful fashion, losing four in a row and obtaining a minus-7 goal differential in the process. But things look positive since that 0-4 start, and MNUFC is playing neat and tidy soccer. They’ve managed to bring in two major attacking signings that they have wanted for quite some time and boast a healthy starting XI minus defender Michael Boxall.
However, there’s a small trend over the course of their past nine matches that could become worrisome as the season goes on. They’re 5-3-1 over that stretch but have only managed to score 10 goals during that time. In total, the Loons have only bagged 13 goals this season, a stat that sees them at the bottom of the league, 24th out of 27 teams.
Heath doesn’t seem to be too worried about it yet, though.
“I’d say, is it a concern if we weren’t winning games or creating opportunities? I would say yes, it would be,” he said Thursday morning after the team’s training session. “However, I think if you look and think of 10-12 really good opportunities that we’re taking? We’re taking most of them. There’s the new four at the top, and we’re all working with them and trying to develop what we’re looking for from each other, but I’ve got every faith that we’ve got goals there for sure.”
Heath believes in his attacking core, and sometimes that’s all a squad needs to succeed — belief in each other and their manager. The results have been coming their way, even if the scoreline and stat sheets aren’t necessarily the most extravagant.
One attacker who has been in the mix of that front-four, albeit off the bench as of late, is Danish winger Niko Hansen.
Hansen and Heath seem to see eye-to-eye on the goal-scoring situation.
“This is a group where everybody works, and so I think when you see the defensive aspect, you’re talking about how many points we’ve gotten. How many ties, how many wins — I mean, that’s the whole group,” Hansen said post-training Thursday morning. “For the offense, obviously goal-scoring is something we want to work on and improve, but we’re not worried about that at all right now.”
The Loons face a tough test against an in-form Portland Timbers side Saturday evening, and they now have both Sebastian Blanco and Diego Valeri available and healthy from the get-go. However, Minnesota will have a full-house at Allianz Field in their favor. Heath isn’t picking out any single one player to shine Saturday, rather. He’s expecting it to be a full team effort to bring down an impressive Timbers side.
“In big games like these, everybody’s gotta carry, everybody’s gotta contribute, and that’s the way it is.”