In the first half against the Colorado Rapids, the Loons gave us a precious glimpse of hope as they led 2-0. The hope was a short-lived, though, as the team gave up three goals in the second half and ended up conceded their fourth consecutive loss of the season.
“For a lot of the time, in big parts of the game, we’re doing fine, we’re playing well,” said defender Michael Boxall. “In those moments when we’re not, it’s recognizing that and making a couple adjustments on the field, set up a defensive block a bit better than we have been, get numbers behind the ball until we get our composure again and here we go again.”
Watching the Loons lose this game was a tough one to take in. After all, the players knew what they had to do but simply couldn’t execute their chances on the field. Nonetheless, the game was over and it was time to focus on the next match against Vancouver Whitecaps FC.
It was clear that coaching staff and players knew this next game could make or break them. Training sessions were full of intensity and determination as the Loons got closer to Wednesday’s game.
"The message is clear, it is win or win,” said captain Osvaldo Alonso. “The mentality is, 'There is no tomorrow, we either win or win.’ So, everyone is mentally prepared, as I told you before, to go after those three points, but always with the intention of giving the best, of each one of us in the team and looking for the way to play the best possible to be able to take the victory."
The Loons were prepared. Minnesota won their first game of the season and earned their first three points. It was a special night in many ways: the team celebrated Michael Boxall’s 100th game with the Loons, they welcomed goalkeeper Tyler Miller back from his hip surgery as he played his first game at Allianz Field, and celebrated Ramón Ábila's first MLS goal as he paid tribute to his brother who passed away.
“Honestly, that win was very important,” said midfielder Emanuel Reynoso. “We needed to win. We had to get points so we could move up in the table and I think we played a good game. We played well and we have to repeat it this weekend like it’s another final.”
The Loons are looking forward to this Saturday’s match against FC Dallas. Unfortunately, having two games during the week means the team has to be cautious about how much activity they have the players doing since they need to recover from their prior game.
“We haven’t done an awful lot,” said Head Coach Adrian Heath. “Obviously, more video work than actual work out here on the grass. It’s never ideal, especially with teams who haven’t had a midweek game come in a little bit fresher. But that’s the way it is and I’m sure down the stretch, we’ll be in the same position as Dallas. I have great respect for Luchi [Gonzalez] and his staff. They’re always really well coached, always very ambitious, they’ve got a lot of pace in the group. It’s going to be tough, but we’re ready for them.”
Coaching staff and players know this weekend’s game is going to be a tough one. FC Dallas might be 10th in the Western Conference, but a Minnesota team in 13th can’t take anything for granted, not even at home.
“They’re a very dangerous team,” said goalkeeper Tyler Miller. “I think they have some good attacking options. They’ve got good service into the box and are very creative on their set pieces. It’s something that we have to, as a team, collectively approach this game the same way we did against [Vancouver]. If we can have that same disciplined, defensive mindset, it will lead to us getting opportunities on the break and I think it’s the way we need to turn around the season. With how it started, it was not what we expected. If we have this defensive mentality, we’re really strong, tough to play against, I think we’ll be able to turn everything around.”
As the Loons prepare themselves for Saturday’s match against FC Dallas, the confidence has to be high. If the players and coaching staff believe they can execute everything on the field and perform like they did on Wednesday, or even better, then it’s safe to say that another three points could be coming their way.