- HISTORY HAS IT’S AYE AYE AYE’S ON YOU: Minnesota United have not endured a four-game losing streak in MLS since the final four games of the 2018 season. For reference, the only players in the 18 for the start of that losing streak — a 5-1 loss to the Philadelphia Union at Subaru Park — who are still with the team are Michael Boxall and Brent Kallman. They closed out the streak and the season with a game away against Columbus Crew SC that featured Wil Trapp and Niko Hansen — playing for the Crew. Defender Francisco Calvo had a brace in that game, if you want to get a real sense for how long it’s been since the straits have been this dire for the Loons. If the problems were strictly tactical or about the overall quality of the team, they wouldn’t necessarily be easy to remedy, but they would be somewhat clearer. Instead, the Loons have been bedeviled by a panoply of problems from individual mistakes that other teams have ruthlessly exploited to injuries to being stuck waiting for the arrival of new Designated Player Adrien Hunou while badly needing more production in front of goal.
- GET BUSY LIVING OR GET BUSY DYING: The echoes of Minnesota’s 3-2 loss to the Seattle Sounders in the Western Conference Final last year are impossible to ignore when looking at this most recent 3-2 loss to Colorado Rapids. In both games, the Loons were on the road but managed to go up 2-0 before losing steam and succumbing to a flurry of late goals by the home side as the hosts pulled ahead and put MNUFC in the rearview mirror. The question is now if the Loons even have the chance to play in the postseason after failing to garner a point in their first four tries. Last year’s seventh-place team — the final playoff spot this year — needed the equivalent of 48 points in a 34-game season. A seventh-place finish will mean starting the playoffs on the road against the second-place team in the Western Conference. To hit that total now, MNUFC will have to average 1.6 points a game through the rest of the season, and last year they averaged 1.62 the whole year to earn the fourth spot and a home playoff game.
- FEELINGS AREN’T NUMBERS: A couple more numbers for you, from the analytics side of the game. The Loons have scored three goals while conceding 10 and outshooting their opponents 61 to 55. That -7 goal differential is tied for worst in the league, but if you look at expected goals (xG) the picture gets murkier. Expected goals as a stat looks at each shot a team takes and measures it by how likely the ball is to go in on that particular shot. A shot from directly in front of net has a high xG, a shot from beyond the box has a low xG. Minnesota’s own xG is 5.02 while their opponents’ is 6.85. That puts their xG differential at -1.83. Not great, but a far sight from the -7 that has actually happened. That gap between those two numbers (5.17) is the widest in the league right now. So what does it mean? It doesn’t mean MNUFC are better than they look — results are results, and there’s no getting around zero points through four games. But it does mean that MNUFC have been particularly snakebitten when it comes to finishing their own shots and stopping their opponents from finishing theirs. It makes the question of what it will take to turn the season around much thornier because the advanced numbers seem to make the case that wholesale changes might be premature.