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Some games don’t go to plan, such is the nature of the beautiful game. After a long stretch of favor from the soccer gods, Minnesota United was brought back down to Earth by Western Conference rivals Real Salt Lake in a 3-0 thumping at Rio Tinto Stadium.

While it would be easy to excuse away the result as an aberration of a rotated squad performing on short rest, Head coach Adrian Heath did not shy away from critiquing areas of poor performance after the game.

“I thought that all three goals we gave them [Real Salt Lake] tonight…were you to say “poor,” would be an under exaggeration,” Heath said. “We didn’t do well enough to stop the crosses and then our marking inside the box was really, really poor. We had spoken about it before the game that they had to get more wide and make more crosses in the box and you have to be in certain spots and we were not in those certain spots and both goals in the first half had come from positions where we knew people would be. But, you can only do so much. We told them [MNUFC players], you hope that they take it onboard and generally they do. This evening, they have not.”

During a stretch that will see the Loons play three games in just eight days, the importance of squad rotation has been evident. At some point, key players have to get a break, lest they face 270 minutes of game time in just about one week. With big games and the postseason on the horizon, player health is of utmost importance right now.

However, six changes to the starting 11 proved to be a bit too much. A disjointed showing was evidence of a lack of understanding between players that haven’t gotten much game time together, and it manifested in a near complete lack of offensive production. Heath added his own opinions on the team’s attacking output.

“Between both boxes, there was not an awful lot in the game,” he said. “In fact, I thought we actually moved the ball around well at times. But, football is about both boxes. Can you score in one and can you keep them out of the other? Tonight, we haven’t done enough in one and we couldn’t keep them out of the other. You don’t win many games playing like that. I can’t remember Dayne [St. Clair] having to make a save and we’re suddenly 2-0 down. They [RSL] didn’t have to work hard enough. If somebody does a little bit of magic in the box and gets it down and beats somebody and bends it in the top corner, you have to take your hands off. I don’t expect people to be able to slide it in the goal in the six-yard box when we’ve got three men back in our penalty area. Unacceptable.”

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On the field, the players could feel the same things that their coach was noticing. Minnesota United captain Wil Trapp echoed his coach's thoughts after the game.

“There’s no excuse for it, ultimately we just have to understand what our role is and how we can hurt the opponent. We got a little bit caught up in being behind early and forcing things without a high tempo of moving the ball and getting into dangerous positions. Ultimately when they are a team that counterattacks, the fullbacks are always going to be a little bit hesitant to attack. That makes it easier for them in the wide positions for overloads. We hurt ourselves by conceding early and we got a little hesitant moving into the attack and opening ourselves up.”

With this obviously disappointing result and performance behind them, the Loons won’t have much time to prepare for their next match against FC Dallas. Regardless, Trapp knows that there are lessons to be learned from last night’s game.

“Yeah. There are lessons to be learned and there is also the reality of a short turnaround,” he said. “The boiled down and condensed version is we need to continue to work on box defending. And really harping on the positions we take up attacking-wise and how we generate chances. Against [FC] Dallas, an opponent right around us in the table, it’s a difficult game but it’s one at home and we need to win. We need to put our best foot forward.”

Just as Trapp said, this weekend’s match is a big one. FC Dallas currently sit just one point behind MNUFC in the league table, though the Loons have a game in hand. A win here would solidify Minnesota United’s grip on their playoff spot and give them a great chance to host some postseason soccer this year.

UP NEXT

Minnesota United FC vs. FC Dallas

Allianz Field | St. Paul, Minnesota

09.03.2022 | MLS Game No. 29

2:30 p.m. CT (Univision, TUDN, Twitter (English audio), Bally Sports North, The CW - Twin Cities, 1500 ESPN)