Though Minnesota United’s 2018 MLS campaign will come to a close on Sunday in Columbus, the Loons see their final match against the Crew as a springboard into next season and want to finish strong in what has admittedly been a disappointing year.
This season has not gone the way MNUFC was hoping. Though the team has taken meaningful steps forward on the field, it did not meet its ultimate goal of making the playoffs. But that does not mean there is nothing left to play for.
“It is important for us to end with a win,” midfielder Miguel Ibarra said. “We owe it to ourselves, to our coaching staff, to everybody and to the fans to come out and give everything we have on the last game. Ending it on the right note is leaving it all out there and getting three points.”
Minnesota does have the opportunity to play spoiler against a Columbus team that can clinch a berth in the playoffs with a win, but defender Francisco Calvo said that will not be his team’s focus.
“It is about playing for pride and trying to do our best that game,” defender Francisco Calvo said. “It is not about them. It is about us. We are not playing for anything else, but we have to play for ourselves, to finish the season well and then get ready for preseason.”
Sunday’s game will also be the Loons’ last chance to show something away from home, where they never quite found their footing this season. One of the biggest steps MNUFC made over the last year was establishing its home field advantage. Minnesota won 10 games and earned 31 points at TCF Bank Stadium, which trends well as it prepares to move into Allianz Field this spring, but that same success never materialized on the road. Ibarra and company see the chance on Sunday to begin to remedy those woes and get momentum headed in the right direction before 2019.
“We know we still have not found why we are not able to perform away,” Ibarra said. “Ending it on a good note in an away game would be big for us.
“At home we knew we were a whole different team and we were able to prove it,” he added. “That was a stride that we made to make sure at home we don’t lose games. Now the thing we have to work on for next year is being the same exact team away.”
As MNUFC begins building for next year, a result on Sunday would end a disheartening campaign on a high note and be a positive stride towards the better future the club seeks. It will also be the last chance for players to make an impression on both the coaching staff and the front office before offseason decisions must be made.
“They are probably going to bring in some key pieces and with Ethan and Molino coming back, they are going to be two big helps there,” Ibarra said. “There is going to be a lot of competitions going on. Going into next year we are all going to be ready, we’re all excited about the new stadium and our goal for next year is making the playoffs.”