Last season, Minnesota United had the most successful MLS campaign in club history by any measure.
After missing the MLS Cup Playoffs in each of their first two MLS seasons, the Loons finished 15W-11L-8D with 53 points in 2019, good for fourth in the Western Conference and a first-ever playoff berth. They went a blistering 10W-1L-6D on their home turf at Allianz Field and, perhaps most encouragingly, drastically improved a defense that shipped 141 goals across 2017-2018, conceding just 43 in 2019.
Their 2-1 first-round defeat to the LA Galaxy in the Western Conference playoffs was certainly a disappointment, but on the whole, the season was a healthy step in the right direction for the organization.
However, for veteran midfielder Ozzie Alonso, 2020 is about taking the next step. And that doesn't mean simply making it further in the playoffs. It means going all the way and winning MLS Cup, as Alonso told Jerry Zgoda of the Star Tribune.
"We have to take make the next step and win a championship," Alonso told Zgoda. "I don't think to make the playoff, I don't think about the Open Cup final. I'm thinking to win the MLS Cup is my goal this year. We want more because I know we're capable of more."
The way Alonso sees it, the Loons' roster is at a point where it has the right mixture of proven veterans and hungry youngsters to compete for all the marbles. While there are some notable departures to contend with, including forward Darwin Quintero and last year's MLS Goalkeeper of the Year Vito Mannone, the club has brought in replacements that should be plenty capable in Paraguayan striker Luis Amarilla and former LAFC goalkeeper Tyler Miller.
Allianz has already become one of the most difficult venues in MLS for opponents to play, so if Minnesota can improve on last year's 5W-10L-2D road record, they should have ample reason to believe they can improve on last year's fourth-place finish and contend for a first-round bye.
"To win a championship you have to have everything: young, talent, experience," Alonso said. "I think we have that."
If the Loons are to make a championship run in 2020, Alonso figures to be a huge part of it. The 34-year-old is coming off a successful first season in Minnesota after joining the club following a legendary decade-long stint with the Seattle Sounders that saw him bag an MLS Cup in 2016. After coming to the Loons in free agency, Alonso started 27 games last season and scored the first-ever goal in Allianz Field history in the venue's opening match against New York City FC.