But an injury scare to star midfielder Emanuel Reynoso complicated matters, as the No. 10 went down in the 24th minute clutching his ankle and played through evident discomfort before being subbed off in the 62nd minute.
Head coach Adrian Heath didn’t have an exact timeline or diagnosis postgame, but all those around MNUFC are clearly hoping for the best.
"He went over on his ankle again, which is not ideal because it’s been lingering for a few weeks now," Heath said postgame. "The one thing that we don’t like doing is Rey playing on a Saturday and not really doing an awful lot [during the week] and then being available for the following week. He’s better when he’s training hard and working with the group. We’ll see how he is tomorrow but it’s a little bit swollen again today.”
Losing Reynoso, by far Minnesota's best player with 10 goals and nine assists in 2022, would handicap the Loons down the final stretch. The Argentine has also dealt with ankle troubles earlier this year, suffering an injury during an international friendly win over English Premier League side Everton in July.
Already shuffling after last week’s season-ending injury to starting center back Bakaye Dibassy, Minnesota have suffered two straight 3-0 losses (the previous one coming against Real Salt Lake on Wednesday night), sliding down the Western Conference table. Should some other Week 29 results go against them, they'd finish the weekend in the sixth spot, just above the playoff line.
Heath doesn’t need any reminding of Reynoso’s importance to his team’s aspirations.
“We will err on the side of caution because we need him fit and healthy,” the Englishman said.
With five games left in their 2022 campaign, Heath feels the pressure will remain through Decision Day on Oct. 9.
“I’ll still say the same: I still think six, maybe seven points would be enough [to make the playoffs],” Heath said. “The last two games has not helped that situation. It puts more pressure on, it gives the teams below us a little bit of a lifeline. I said before the season started, this West is going to be tougher now. I think it’ll go to the wire and nothing has changed.”
With or without Reynoso – not to mention fellow Argentine Franco Fragrapane, who was red-carded in the 69th minute – Heath is adamant the Loons can't have another collapse like Saturday's.
“I don’t think we played bad enough today,” Heath said. “We could have taken something out of this game. We have to eradicate these moments of madness that we’re giving teams too many opportunities.”