Storylines, Presented by BMW

Patience (for Pukki) is a virtue that can pay off


Storylines is back and, admittedly, still working through some PTSD and the emotions that can manifest upon being shown a red card at the most inopportune of times. For the sake of every fan’s mental health following the Loons exit from the Leagues Cup, let’s focus on the bigger takeaways from the boys’ performance in the tourney. First, aside from the Nashville matchup, goalkeeper Dayne St. Clair looked as confident as he’s looked all season between the posts. Seeing him step up in those high pressure shootout scenarios to make the big stops should spur optimism in regards to the rest of the season. As the Loons jump back into their 2023 MLS regular season schedule, that kind of Canadian clutch will be needed to move up the ranks of the Western Conference. The other big takeaway? Yes, Bongi, of course…but the attacking third as a whole showed the ability to score more in big time spots throughout the tourney. Another promising development for a Loons team that hasn’t traditionally been known as a high-scoring squad. 

However, during the Loons' run through Leagues Cup, I’ve noticed some chatter creeping up, both online and in passing that, frankly, seems a bit over-the-top. I actually heard it with my own two ears while at the Toluca game, when a fan sitting near me said this: “We need to get Pukki outta here...” While I am a seasoned veteran when it comes to blurting out regrettable things in the heat of the moment, I’m not somebody that has lost sight of what Teemu Pukki brings to the table. Also…like, really? Fans can be fickle, and I include myself in that category from time to time. But, while we all want to see Pukki putting it in the back of the net, I think it’s beyond premature to even say something like that, let alone think it. 

While hopes have certainly been high upon signing Finland’s all-time leading goal scorer, there are a few things to take in consideration before hitting the panic button. Currently, Teemu Pukki’s run with the Loons has only been eight games long. The man has played in more Leagues Cup games than he has in MLS regular season action. And, even before arriving in Minnesota, Pukki was beginning to work on his fitness and reaching the levels it would need to be for him to be ready to take the pitch. In all honesty, the 33-year old probably had enough experience and knowledge of the game throughout his career that helped him get on the field sooner than would be expected for any other mortal man. 

But, beyond all those things to consider about Teemu Pukki’s tenure in Minnesota, we need to consider the big picture…and the picture shows that this Loons attack hits different! If anything, this is the most offensively-minded Adrian Heath roster we’ve seen since starting his MNUFC tenure. Yes, Pukki is a goal scorer in nature. Yes, he’s had quality opportunities without cashing in, and missteps that may have resulted in a more positive result. But, almost every player on this roster has had to go through their own acclimation period when joining the squad. One prime example of acclimating would be his friend and fellow countrymen, Robin Lod. When he arrived, his impact wasn’t instant, but in time he became the Robin Lod we know and love (and miss 🥲 ) today. In fact, you could even say he’s still getting accustomed to running mates like Reynoso and Bongi, but even as a work in progress this Loons attack has evolved into a more dangerous entity for opponents to deal with. And, at the very least, it should give fans assurance that we have yet to see Pukki at the top of his game. Whether he’s the one scoring goals right now or not, he’s a smart player who knows how to find himself in the right place at the right times, and his presence on the pitch has already helped make the attacking third better as an overall unit. 

Often, we as fans are too quick to jump on the bandwagon of negativity and magnify problems that aren’t as significant as they seem. In the case of Teemu Pukki’s time with the Loons, it feels like there’s a small minority out there already chomping at the bit to deem Pukki’s addition to the lineup as “unsuccessful.” And, to those folks I’ll say this….c’mon man. Regardless of how many total goals he has, Pukki is a difference maker, and I believe he will get his as the season progresses. If they aren’t the kind of goals that come in bunches, I’m not too worried about that. When it comes down to it, as long as Pukki plays a role in getting the Loons over the first round hump or beyond in the MLS Cup Playoffs, then I’d say that our patience would certainly pay off.


NYCFC vs. Minnesota United FC

08.20.2023 | MLS Matchday No. 24 | MLS Game 23

Citi Field | Queens, NY | Kickoff: 6:30 p.m. CT