BLAINE (FOX 9) - Minnesota United returned to training on Friday at the National Sports Center in Blaine, and isn’t about to let its most recent loss affect the next slate of games.
The Loons lost at Atlanta United 3-0 Wednesday night, but the final score shouldn’t be an indicator of the game. Minnesota went into stoppage time trailing 1-0, and Atlanta capitalized with a pair of goals about three minutes apart.
It was a frustrating finish to an otherwise closely-contested match. It was also Minnesota’s third loss in its last five matches.
“We went in with a lot of positives and then we lose 3-0 in stoppage time and you feel like the world is coming to an end. It’s crazy how quickly it can change,” defender Ike Opara said.
Atlanta took the early lead with a goal in the 23rd minute. Atlanta maintained the advantage until stoppage time, when Josef Martinez scored a pair of goals just a few minutes apart.
That’s despite 11 shots, three shots on target, four corner kicks and 13 crosses for Minnesota United. The Loons had three other shooting opportunities blocked.
Keeper Vito Mannone faced eight shots on target, and made five saves.
“I thought we fought really hard to come back in the game. Up to stoppage time, you saw a different game. If you look at the result at the end of the game, you didn’t watch the game. You feel we got hammered, but it wasn’t like that,” Mannone said. “It’s futbol, it happens.”
The bigger issue for Minnesota United is its own lack of scoring. The Loons scored just three goals in the month of May, and now have an equal goal differential with 21 scored and 21 allowed.
It was their fourth time being shut out this season, and the third time it’s come in a loss. The 21 goals puts Minnesota in a four-way tie for third in scoring in the Western Conference. Their goal differential is fifth in the conference. But those 21 goals are through only 14 games.
It’s not for a lack of opportunities, but it is about taking the chances when they have them. Coach Adrian Heath said it starts with the team believing in itself.
“The next game is the game they’ve got to turn it around, and they have to think that. There’s nobody with a magic wand out there who is suddenly going to make these feel confident and we’re going to score goals,” Heath said. “They’re going to have to do that by themselves.”
The good news for Minnesota United is it’s returning to the friendly confines of Allianz Field. The Loons have yet to lose at their new home with a 3-0-3 mark, and they’ll be tested Sunday afternoon.
Minnesota United hosts Philadelphia Union, which is second in the Eastern Conference with 25 points. They’re plus-9 in goal differential, lead the conference with 25 goals scored and are 2-2-2 on the road.
They’re not afraid to go into hostile environments and give teams a tough match. Philadelphia enters the match having allowed just 16 goals in 15 matches. They're only one point back of D.C. United for the top spot in the east.
It will also be Minnesota’s third game in a little more than a week.
“We want to win every game and I think at home, we’re trying to impress. Trying to please our crowd and make sure they really go home with satisfaction as well as us,” Opara said. “When they’re in your corner and you’re in familiar territory, a familiar environment, usually it leans in your favor.”
The other good news for the Loons: After 14 matches, they’re very much in the thick of the Western Conference playoff race. Minnesota’s 21 points sit in fifth, three points clear of the last playoff spot. Minnesota United is also home for three of its five matches in June.
After Sunday's match, Minnesota United travels to face Colorado Rapids June 8, and hosts Sporting KC on June 12 in the U.S. Open Cup.