After last season's strong finish and run to the Western Conference final, Minnesota United were expected to be among the conference's top teams in 2021.
For good reason, too. Star attacking midfielder Emanuel Reynoso flashed Best XI-caliber form after his mid-season move from Boca Juniors, lifting an already solid group to new heights. Much of the roster was returning, even if Kevin Molino ultimately departed in free agency, the team had plenty of flexibility for big additions.
The first few weeks of the season have not gone to plan.
Minnesota have lost all four of their games, conceding 10 goals in the process, tied for the league-worst and are MLS's only team with zero points. While there is plenty of time to right the ship, pressure is building on the Loons to end their losing streak. They have another chance on Wednesday (9 pm ET | MLS LIVE on ESPN+) against the Vancouver Whitecaps.
"The longer this goes, the more it builds," head coach Adrian Heath told media on a virtual press conference. "We know sooner or later the pressure will start to keep building. To get rid of that, we need to win a game. We have a chance Wednesday night. That’s been our focus. Let’s forget about what’s around the corner, let’s put everything focused on Wednesday to try and get the season up and running.”
In the post-shootout era (2000 onwards) only two teams have ever gone pointless through their first four games and made the postseason. Both of those instances happened in last year’s expanded Eastern Conference playoff field (NYCFC and Inter Miami CF).
Despite the four-game losing streak to start the season, they won't be taken lightly.
"I know Minnesota very well," Whitecaps head coach Marc Dos Santos said. "I know their qualities very well. I know the fans well. I know how they approach things. I'm not in soccer like many people are, who forget the past very quickly. Minnesota is a team that a lot of people praised not a long time ago, close to being in MLS Cup. They did very well last year but hasn't started well in regards with points, but there were parts of games they were really good. We're ready for a very difficult game."
Heath struck an optimistic tone as well.
The club outplayed the Seattle Sounders in their opener for the first half, before succumbing to a 4-0 loss. There were positive moments against Real Salt Lake and Austin FC, then they took a 2-0 lead into halftime against the Colorado Rapids before falling apart in the second half for a 3-2 loss. Heath is choosing to look at the bright side, and ensuring those moments are expanded to full performances, as they look to claw out of this hole.
“We know we haven’t started the way we want, there’s no point in denying that," Heath said. "But there’s been an awful lot of positives. … We’ve tried to express to the players that there have been good moments, we just need to cut out the errors. I think we’re going to be fine.”
A result Wednesday would be a good start.