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For Minnesota United, the first half of the 2022 season has seen its share of highlights. It’s also had its share of bad luck and missed opportunities. Let’s take a look at the good, the bad and the ugly so far, and what the Loons need to build momentum as they start up the rest of their season.

The Sorta-Midseason Review

As the Ghostbusters’ Winston Zeddemore once declared, “we have the tools, we have the talent!” While Zeddemore may have been describing himself and his team of paranormal extermination professionals, the same could be attributed to our beloved Minnesota United and their 2022 season, so far. In the offseason, the Loons put together a roster that was built to help them breakthrough in the Western Conference and exercise the demons of last year’s disappointingly-early elimination from MLS playoffs at the hands of Portland. While they constructed arguably the most talented roster in their five plus years in MLS, while also possessing some of the most strategic creativity in the Western Conference, the Loons of 2022 have not consistently shown the kind of form needed to be part of the MLS Cup contenders conversation.

To be fair, injuries have played a role in the Loons sporadic play throughout the first half of the season. But, to be objective, fans know that our boys have created plenty of scoring opportunities, but it’s the other part of that whole transaction that has been declined at the register too many times. As a fan, I’m empathetic to those frustrations. I too have felt those feels from the press box, a place where proper etiquette is to be indifferent to who you root for…and this season, my indifference has unleashed my inner-David Rose.

Thankfully, the international break came just in time. Nobody can dispute how hard Minnesota United plays on a game-by-game basis, but having consecutive weeks of doubleheaders was a grueling pace to maintain. The rest was needed for this roster to take a breath and recharge. It’s like Winston says, the 2022 Loons roster absolutely has the tools and the talent to get more consistent play throughout the second half of this season. I think Dayne St. Clair will continue to play at a high level, and his presence in net has been nothing short of crucial when this team has been at its best form in the first half of the season. So yes, keep the Dayne Train rolling.

Despite stumbling out the gates a bit, Emanuel Reynoso has been the stick that stirs the drink on the attack. His playmaking abilities and surgical ball handling are a big reason for the overabundance of scoring opportunities in the first half of the season, and hopefully, that continues to be the case for the remainder of the season. Even more so than it has in the first part of the season, I think the addition of Kemar Lawrence has been a much bigger deal than it gets credit for. He hasn’t lost a step at all, and his incredible versatility has factored into him playing a somewhat bigger role in terms of the second half of the season. (Ya done screwed up, Toronto!)

Also, I predict a bigger, better second half of the season from Luis Amarilla. Friendly or not, his goal against Paderborn ended his scoring rut at the right time for this team. We know Amarilla can score. He knows he can score. For the remainder of the season, I think we’ll see him regain his touch and finish on some of these scoring opportunities we missed out on in the first part of the season.

Lastly, Robin Lod…you just keep being Hawkeye out there. More invisible arrows, please.

The bottom line for finding more success in the second half of the season, we need to find our finishing touch. We have the tools. We have talent. Now, we need those golazos, gentlemen.

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The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly: Midseason Edition

The Good: 2-1 Upset Win at FC Dallas

Dear Texas,

In light of everything being bigger within your state lines, does that include upset wins at a less-than-hospitable Toyota Stadium, where no visiting team had won since October 27, 2021? Big, like that? Did we do it right?

Warm Regards,

MNUFC

Highlight of the Game:

D.J. Taylor scores his first MLS goal. He looked surprised. As was the FC Dallas defense. Frankly, it was adorable.

The Bad: 0-1 Home Loss to FC Cincinnati

Confidence was high coming into this one, as Cincy had been winless against the Loons since joining MLS in 2019. Lod and Amarilla were both gametime scratches, but that didn’t shake our confidence, right? But, confidence is a funny thing. Like Kevin Malone carrying a giant pot of what appears to be Skyline Chili. Scoring opportunities were the stairwell, because there were many chances. But, Cincy scoring one in stoppage time near the end of the match was brutal. Almost like dropping a massive kettle of Skyline Chili right as you reach your destination. Just brutal.

Highlight of the Bad Game:

Even in giving up one in stoppage time, Dayne St. Clair was a beast in the net. A wonderful Canadian beast that may be able to fly…because he believes in himself.

The Ugly: 2-1 Upset Loss to Union Omaha in U.S. Open Cup

It was the U.S. Open Cup Round of 16 and…ya know what? We don’t need to talk about this one? Did you want to? Ok, let’s not.

Highlight of the Ugly Game:

In happier times…six minutes in.

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And finally, here are the fake awards I'm handing out for genuine sentiments and observations

Midseason MVP: Dayne St. Clair

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Coming into the season, St. Clair was thought to be the backup to the incumbent at goalkeeper, Tyler Miller. But, with Miller’s early season injury, Dayne stepped in and took advantage of the opportunity. St. Clair’s level of play has been the Loons greatest strength this season, with him currently leading all MLS keepers with a plus 4.9 in expected goals minus goals allowed and is tied for seventh in 1.08 goals against per 90 minutes. Coach Heath hasn’t been shy with his endorsement of the 25-year-old Canadian keeper’s play this season, saying “he’s in a particularly rich vein of form.” Without him in the net, we could have taken two more losses (New York Red Bulls and Colorado Rapids) in the first part of the season. It’s no exaggeration to say that through 14 games, St. Clair has put together an MLS Best XI, MLS All-Star, and potentially — dare we say it? — an MLS MVP campaign. If he can continue his run of form through the remainder of the season, the Loons will be in prime position to make their fourth consecutive playoff appearance — where, as we all know, just about anything can happen.

Breakthrough Player of Midseason: D.J. Taylor

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In light of early-season injuries, trades and card suspensions, D.J. Taylor has absolutely made the most of his opportunities. After not having recorded any league play more than a month into the season, Taylor didn’t waste any time making himself stand out as a playmaker. And, with Romain Metanire’s injury setback against Paderborn, Taylor’s defensive prowess, speed and attacking abilities will be needed for the second half of the Loons season if they are to move up the ranks of the Western Conference.

Unsung Hero of the First Half: Bakaye Dibassy

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If you’re on a Valentine’s Day date with your significant other, “steady” may not be the adjective you want to break out to describe your beloved. But if you’re a Minnesota United backline that has been forced to trot out nine different starting combinations over 14 MLS matches, “steady” is exactly what you’re looking for. And “steady” is what Bakaye Dibassy has delivered over the first three-and-a-half months of the season. When the Loons found themselves without presumed starting left and right backs, Chase Gasper and Romain Metanire, to start the season, Dibassy was asked to shift outside, where he performed admirably over four starts. The early-season acquisition of Kemar Lawrence allowed Dibassy to return to more natural spot in the center back, where he has helped anchor a formidable backline unit while presenting a consistent threat in the box on set pieces in the attacking third. While he may not put up the type of eye-popping offensive stats that tend to gain national notoriety, a reliable Bakaye Dibassy is exactly what the Loons need to find their run of form and be playing meaningful soccer deep into October.