“Do or Die” is how it started. “Didn’t and Done” is how it’s going for the Loons’ season after Saturday night’s 3-1 defeat at the hands of Sporting Kansas City on Decision Day 2023.
The pace on the pitch was frenetic at the jump, with both clubs looking to jumpstart their attacking efforts and get the upper hand in a match that was a must-win if the playoffs would remain a possibility for either side. Unfortunately, for the Loons, it would be Sporting Kansas City’s attack that would quickly ramp up the pressure on MNUFC’s backline. That pressure would break in the 28th minute when SKC forward and Loons’ arch nemesis Johnny Russell would spot up from the right corner of the box and find the net. 1-0, SKC.
Before the boys could regain their balance in the aftermath of Russell’s score, it would be SKC midfielder Rémi Walter on the receiving end of a beautiful cross from Dániel Sallói, Walter’s one-touch shot would blast past Dayne St. Clair, and…well, deflate much of the hope in the Loons’ playoff chances. 2-0...sigh.
In true villain-like fashion, Johnny Russell dealt the final deathblow in the 78th-minute of the second half, when his short-range shot from just left of the six-yard box would reach its netted-destination. While the Loons would break their scoring seal thanks to defender Michael Boxell’s line-drive header from the center of the SKC box in the 81st minute, it was too-little-too-late for the Loons on this Saturday night.
Now, for the first time in the last five MLS Cup playoffs, the Western Conference field will not include Minnesota United FC. And, a season that started out in the midst of tumultuous times will end much in the same way. After a mostly listless performance that did little to challenge the Sporting KC surge, the Loons will now look ahead to an off-season ripe with some uncertainty, as they will be on the hunt to find a new head coach and technical director to begin the process of finding the right talent to put MNUFC back into the playoff mix, and beyond.