Hello, fellow waterfowl enthusiasts…and yes, I realize the irony in having any variation of the word “enthusiasm” appear in this article. After Wednesday’s 5-1 thumping at the hands of the defending champs, it’s hard not to feel discouraged about the Loons’ playoff chances. I don’t say that ironically, as they still do have a chance to rise up the standings and into the top 9 teams in the Western Conference, as they currently sit three points below the line with six remaining points up for grabs. That said, I feel like Wednesday’s loss just hit a bit different, and obviously, not in a good way. Especially when you consider the fact that LAFC came into the matchup experiencing their own recent strife, having been held scoreless over their four previous competitions. But, to put it mildly, it appears they’ve got their groove back. Now, for better or worse, the Loons head home to try and salvage the season against LA Galaxy…yes, the same LA Galaxy squad that overcame a 3-1 Loons’ lead at the half to pull off a 4-3 comeback win. But, after falling to 2-1 to Seattle this past Wednesday night, the Galaxy find themselves with an even more improbable road to the playoffs than your Loons. It doesn’t make the LAFC loss less painful, but…it’s something positive, and MNUFC could use some of that positivity at the moment. So, let’s get to it.
| Run of Form
Minnesota United FC
Run of Form: L-D-L-L-L
Maybe we don’t need to rehash this, but yeah, we’ve been better…
Run of Form: L-D-D-W-L
To be fair, the LA Galaxy looked as though they may be gaining momentum for a proper playoff push after that 4-3 win against the Loons on September 20. But, Wednesday's loss to the Sounders is quite detrimental to LA’s playoff hopes of sneaking into the top nine teams in the Western Conference. And, while they may sit only one spot below the Loons at 13th in the conference standings, the Galaxy have three teams and 6 points between them and ninth which may be just too big of a differential to overcome with so little of the season left to play.
| Keys to the Game
If It’s Broke…Let’s Fix It.
MNUFC have become well-known for their consistent playing style under Coach Heath, and while the 4-2-3-1 has served them well over the years, recent form leaves me thinking that it might be time to try a new approach. Against LAFC and San Jose, the Loons looked about as out of sync as they have been the entire season. Do they need to reinvent the wheel? I wouldn’t say that, but with very little personnel change between the San Jose and LAFC matches, there needs to be changes to that specific lineup or the approach to keep the defense from leaking as it has.
Experience > Experimentation
I truly believe that a young, talented player like Ethan Bristow can eventually contribute to this Loons’ squad. Unfortunately, it’s beginning to look like he might not be ready quite yet, as he seemed overmatched on Wednesday night against LAFC. With playoff hopes even slimmer and a string of less than positive results, I hope that the gaffer can construct a lineup with proven veteran talent in tow. Players like Ismael Tajouri-Shradi and Jan Gregus have been compliments to this season’s roster and can bring the kind of poise and knowledge needed if the Loons hope to stage a late-season playoff push.
Get Defensive, Again
Admittedly, it's tough to see this unit struggle when it's been so solid throughout the season, but the Loons’ defending third needs…something. Obviously, the combination of Taylor and Bristow wasn’t the right combination of talent to keep LAFC at bay. Whether it’s Valentin and Dibassy getting the start, or letting the defensive-minded mids have a go at those wing positions, the Loons are in need of some sort of personnel or strategic solution to stop uncontested crosses from landing in the danger zone.
Minnesota United FC vs. LA Galaxy
10.07.2023 | Kickoff: 7:30 p.m. CT | MLS Matchday No. 37
Allianz Field | St. Paul, MN
Watch: AppleTV - MLS Season Pass, 1500 ESPN