Storylines is back and, as your parents have probably said at some point in your lifetime, we’re not mad…we’re just disappointed. But, for the Loons, a disappointing home loss to Sporting Kansas City over the weekend doesn’t mean that we, as fans, should be deterred from the path the team has plotted out in the second half of the season. And, it also doesn’t mean it’s time to reach for the panic button. As Minnesotan sports fans, we’re inherently prone to sound the alarms at the first sign of trouble for our respective sports squads. Don’t get me wrong, I do understand the concerns. Minnesota’s pro sports history is rife with many examples of sports-related heartaches and the sports-induced PTSD those moments can inflict on a fan base.
In true Minnesota fashion, the Loons and their legions of fans have experienced their fair share of heartache over the years. But, rather than running down the list of unfortunate outcomes in our past, I think we all need to take a deep breath, reflect a little bit, and look forward to what the Loons can accomplish as they move past this loss. Are we sad to see our seven-game unbeaten streak come to an end? Of course we are. Nobody likes to lose a winnable match, especially at home. But rather than dwell on what could have been, I choose to lean into the “Road Warriors” persona the Loons have developed during the 2023 season. That persona is what we need to embrace when MNUFC face LA Galaxy at their place on Wednesday night. As Coach Adrian Heath stated earlier in the week, “...we’ve proved that we can go to the [LA] Galaxy and win. We’ve gotten results there in the past. It’s a big game. Let’s go and play.”
At the risk of sounding cliché, every match left on the schedule is important for the Loons’ playoff hopes. Without the word “clinched” appearing next to our spot in the table, it’s tough to feel much comfort. But, with little in the way of points separating a majority of clubs in the Western Conference and just the usual wackiness that happens within the standings right up to Decision Day, the pressure is on…well, just about every other club, too. Coach Heath knows that the Galaxy are no exception.
“I’m sure they’re [LA Galaxy] looking at the game thinking it’s a no-lose game for them. You look where they are with the games that they’ve played. About every game between now and the end of the season is huge. We’ve got to play them twice. Our games are the same. Everybody is playing each other. Everybody panics about their own [schedule] and then you look at everybody’s fixtures and it’s exactly the same. Everybody is playing against each other, but we’ve just got to do what we can do. We’ve got three home games in the next six [matches]. We probably need to win at least a couple of them I’d think.”
There’s pressure on the Loons to perform, no doubt. But, I’d much rather have the kind of pressure that’s rooted in opportunity over that “must-win” kind of pressure any day.
If I’m triggering your sports PTSD with this kind of optimism, allow me to offer one more important thing that sets this season apart from past seasons: the 2023 Loons have the most talented roster the club has possibly ever had. This year’s squad has greatly evolved over the course of the season, as the front office proved to be dedicated and deliberate in their efforts to address the weaknesses that came to the surface earlier in the season. And with those additions to the squad, the Loons were able to find versatility amongst the ranks they haven’t had in previous campaigns. They found the depth needed to keep the defense solid through the grind of an entire season. And, the Loons’ attacking third has rarely, if ever, been this dynamic on the ball, this fast on the run, or this dangerous around the opponent’s goal.
Regardless of what seed they may clinch in the Western Conference, this 2023 roster gives the Loons their best opportunity to reach a new level of success in the playoffs. So, fellow fans, don’t hit the panic button just yet. If anything, now is the time to keep calm and carry on, you Loons!
LA Galaxy vs. Minnesota United FC
09.20.2023 | Kickoff: 9:30 p.m. CT | MLS Matchday No. 33
Dignity Health Sports Park | Carson, CA
Watch: AppleTV - MLS Season Pass, 1500 ESPN