A 5-1 loss is a demolition, even if it's in your debut, on the road, against a team that's arguably one of the half-dozen best in the league (or is expected to be, at least). I'm not trying to get lost counting individual trees while forgetting the nature of this particular forest – Minnesota United FC have a ton of stuff to work on after their Friday night loss at Portland.
In the process of losing, they made a classic expansion team mistake: They got a goal from Christian Ramirez, made the score 2-1, and started to think "hey we can play with you guys," and so they started pushing more and more men forward. They got over-confident in the moment, gave the Timbers attackers room to run into, and got crushed down the stretch. 2-1 became 3-1 became 5-1, and there is no particular reason to be happy about that scoreline for the Loons.
It happens, though. There's not a single expansion team in MLS history that hasn't suffered a handful of blow-out losses.
Ok fine, this one was a special kind of beat-down.
But I can find a silver lining, in that most of the danger Minnesota conceded was from individual breakdowns. Jermaine Taylor had a miserable night at right back, and right center back Vadim Demidov struggled nearly as much. Mo Saeid generally struggled to drive play forward and into dangerous spots, and then his sloppy touch in a dangerous spot – a habit of his – led directly to the fourth Portland goal.
Minnesota were actually pretty well organized throughout most of this match and weren't regularly getting pulled apart from open play. It was only when Taylor fell asleep at the back post or Demidov was overpowered by Fanendo Adi that things got especially ugly.
Adrian Heath reflects postgame: "We have conceded, probably, three poor goals. And at this level... you’re going to get punished." pic.twitter.com/NgFKCaIsdi— Jonathan Tannenwald (@thegoalkeeper) March 4, 2017
Why is that a silver lining? Because individuals who repeatedly make mistakes can be replaced in the XI pretty easily. Whereas if the structure was wrong, it could/would take months of on-the-fly rebuilding (think NYCFC in 2015, for reference).
So as bad as the scoreline was for Minnesota in Game 1, I thought the structure was functional. Next time out, it's on Adrian Heath to do a better job of picking the right pieces to put in the right spots, and to give his team a better chance of putting results like these in the rearview mirror. That probably means changing at least two starters, and maybe getting one more guy in the midfield who's willing to pass the ball with intent.
It'll be a process. Part 1 of that process was a big loss, and the important part – learning from it – is next.