As Minnesota United prepares to once more take flight in the direction of Providence Park and the Portland Timbers, Storylines is here to do some research on what the Loons need for playoff positioning, and also to study how expensive it would be to install the Portland airport carpet pattern in the basement game room.
If you’re reading this, you likely know that last week’s results for Minnesota were not quite what they may have hoped for in terms of solidifying their playoff position. After losses to both Dallas and Salt Lake, Minnesota has slipped from third in the Western Conference to fifth, with Salt Lake in sixth breathing down their collective necks. That said, all is not lost for Minnesota. From the optimistic perspective, the Loons remain in complete control of their destiny for the coveted third spot in the West. Both Dallas (third, 46 points) and Nashville (fourth, 45 points) have played one more game than Minnesota (fifth, 44 points), and therefore have just four games remaining to gain ground. If Minnesota wins out, they will be third. If things go less well, they may slip further. Portland (seventh, 42 points) would pass Minnesota with a win in this weekend’s game, as would Salt Lake should they win (sixth, 42 points), and the LA Galaxy (eighth, 39 points plus a game in hand) would move within striking distance with a win of their own. The simplest thing is the same as ever; Minnesota needs every point they can manage.
Last week marked the first time since June that Minnesota lost consecutive games. Not only that, the two 3-0 defeats were their two heaviest defeats of the entire season. Prior to last week, the Loons had lost by multiple goals just twice all season, most recently in mid-May. The still-short stretch of adversity marks the first time since the middle of the 2020 season that Minnesota lost consecutive games by multiple goals, coincidentally including a loss to Dallas and a 3-0 loss. To take inspiration from that season, lest we forget, Minnesota found their way deep into the playoffs despite that rough moment. Following those two losses in late June and early July 2020, Minnesota finished the season 8-3-5 and was never again beaten by multiple goals that season. Many of the Loon’ Storylines this season have touched on records broken or similarities to that notable 2020 season. Minnesota could look once more to that season for inspiration, even with just five games to go.
Oasis in the Desert
After a stretch of games that quantified perhaps their most notable offensive outburst in MLS club history, Minnesota ran out of goals in last week’s games. The Loons have now been held scoreless for 186 minutes of game time, running back to Luis Amarilla’s match-winning goal against Houston two weeks ago. Considering that Minnesota had not been held scoreless since May before last week, one could reasonably trust an attack that remains above average in MLS to re-find its stride sooner than later. The question that stands: who will find Minnesota’s oasis in their scoring desert? The Loons still have an attack that boasts four players with six or more goals this season, each of whom have found a purple patch of form at one point this season. Who will take the lead for the Loons as they travel to a hostile environment in Portland and renew the insanity that saw a 4-4 draw at Allianz Field just six weeks ago?
Portland Timbers vs. Minnesota United FC
Providence Park | Portland, Oregon
09.10.2022 | MLS Game No. 30
9:00 p.m. CT (MLS LIVE on ESPN+, Bally Sports North EXTRA, The CW - Twin Cities, 1500 ESPN)