A pitstop at Allianz Field proved to be exactly what MNUFC needed to end their losing streak, as they drew LAFC by a score of 1-1. While the Loons obviously would’ve preferred the full three points, the most important thing on Tuesday night was always to stop the bleeding and get back on track for the playoff push. There were plenty of encouraging signs from Minnesota United throughout the match, setting up what should be an exciting end to the regular season.
After putting together an impressive 90 minute performance, MNUFC defender DJ Taylor was left unsatisfied with just a draw.
“It’s kind of disappointing to be honest,” Taylor said. “Especially at home we have that killer mentality that we want to win all our games at home. Obviously, we have a good opponent like LAFC, and we want to show what we are against them, who we’re trying to be, and who we have been this year, which I think is top three in the league for sure, so to walk away with just a point is disappointing for our standards.”
For large stretches of the game, MNUFC straight up outplayed their opponents. They hosted the Western Conference’s top team without batting an eye, forcing a moment of brilliance from LAFC’s Carlos Vela to salvage a draw for the visitors. Head Coach Adrian Heath knew that Vela could pose a problem for his squad, but remained proud of his team’s showing on the night.
“As I’ve always said, if you give time and space — an opportunity — to top players, invariably, you’re going to be punished,” Heath said. “He’s still 25 yards out and he’s putting it in the top corner. Hats off to Carlos. He’s a quality player, but I think that’s overshadowed what’s been a really, really big performance from our guys when you consider what’s been put in and got nothing back for it in Portland. The last three games, I couldn’t have asked any more. I said we had five minutes of madness against [FC] Dallas. But if you look at the last three games, I think there’s a big argument that we’ve been the better team.”
Unfortunately, points aren’t awarded based on which team looked or played better; to the victors go the spoils. From their last 4 games, the Loons have only managed to secure one out of an available 12 points. Despite this rough patch of results, Heath understood the importance of earning a point against LAFC.
“It puts us a point closer to where we want to be,” he said. “We know we’re going to San Jose [Earthquakes], Vancouver [Whitecaps] at home and then Kansas [Sporting Kansas City]. It’s places we’ve won in the past. You have to go and win at least one of them, I would think, on the road and then see where the rest of the results go. If we keep performing like we have done tonight, then we’ll give ourselves a really good chance.”
The Loons are heading to Kansas City this weekend, where they will be without Emanuel Reynoso due to yellow card accumulation. To say that Reynoso has been a key player for Minnesota United would be an understatement. He has tallied both 10 goals and 10 assists, pulling strings and finishing moves all season long. As the team prepares to play without their main man, Taylor spoke to the effect his absence will have.
“Obviously you know Rey [Emanuel Reynoso] and his quality, so we always miss him when he can’t play,” Taylor said. “But he gets a little rest as we continue this playoff push, so that’s another way to look at it. But, I think we’ll definitely miss him either way. Kind of the big thing this season that’s been good for us is that whoever steps in is ready to do their job, and that’s how we’re going to look at it against Sporting Kansas City.”
With so much at stake in the closing three games of the season, that next-man-up mentality will be extremely important for the Loons. Players will have to keep stepping up across the pitch, just as Brent Kallman did at the stroke of halftime. His header goal from a corner ended his team’s scoring drought emphatically, providing a much-needed spark.
“It seems like we create a lot of chances, especially on set pieces, but we’re not finishing them. It's kind of been the story all season, but to see BK [Brent Kallman] do it today was huge,” Taylor said about the goal. “I think it's huge for us as a group when we score first, especially for all the games where we play our best, we’ve always scored first and we’ve finished the game with that mentality. It helps us defensively knowing that we’ve had this first goal that we’re going to win this game.”
In their remaining games, the Loons will be hoping to maintain this threat on set pieces. All three of their final opponents sit beneath the playoff line, but underestimating your opponent is never a good thing. MNUFC will need to bring their A-game from here on out if they want to make a splash in the postseason.
Sporting Kansas City vs. Minnesota United FC
Children's Mercy Park | Kansas City, Kansas
09.17.2022 | MLS Game No. 32
7:30 p.m. CT (MLS LIVE on ESPN+, Bally Sports North EXTRA, The CW - Twin Cities, 1500 ESPN)