Turning a corner? Minnesota feeling good about progress ahead of homestand

HOUSTON — Minnesota United FC head coach Adrian Heath never lost faith in his Loons.

He didn’t lose it when Portland dropped five goals on them. Or the week after when Atlanta blitzed them for six goals. Or on Saturday vs. Houston when they fell behind by two before battling back for a hard-fought 2-2 road draw.

“I’m confident in this group — like I’ve said before, even early on in the season when we had a few heavy defeats, I probably had a little more faith in them than most people,” Heath said. “Some people thought it was blind faith but I think we’re starting to look like a decent team.”

Much like this season has gone for them, the Loons didn’t make things easy on themselves on Saturday. Down 2-0 with halftime looming, they had to make two substitutions, including one for goalkeeper Bobby Shuttleworth, who left the game with a laceration to his face.

“We gave ourselves a mountain to climb again with poor goals conceded,” Heath said. “But there’s a little bit of resolve coming in the group now. Maybe a few weeks ago that would have gone to three, to four, to five like we had in the beginning of the season.

"Are we getting better? Yes. Do we have a long way to go? Definitely.”

Kevin Molino – who nabbed an assist and was part of the buildup on the second goal – said the team’s last two games, against Houston and FC Dallas, are proof that the team is starting to find itself.

“The game in Dallas [a 2-0 loss], I thought we played well,” he said. “The final pass, and the quality in the final third wasn’t there, but today we got two goals. We’re going to take the draw but we expected more from the game.”

Saturday’s draw against the Dynamo marked the first time this year in which Molino left a big mark on the game – and it didn’t go unnoticed by Heath.

“He’s getting better and better every week,” the Minnesota coach said. “He is starting to get a better understanding with his teammates now. His teammates are starting to realize what a good player he is and starting to give him the ball, even when he’s marked.”

The Loons now have five points from seven games, five of which were on the road. Four out of their next five games are now at home, and Heath wants to use that time to keep building their momentum.

Molino echoed his coach’s sentiments.

“There’s no excuse,” Molino said of the Loons upcoming homestand. “When you’re home, you have to be on the front foot and we have to make it difficult for teams to come there and play in front of a tremendous amount of fans who come out in the snow and support us and show us that love.”

Christian Ramirez – who started the Loons comeback with a 46th-minute goal and now has five goals on the season – was satisfied with the draw but much like Heath and Molino, knows the team is far from a finished product.

“We need to play better, 90 minutes together,” Ramirez said. “I think we keep coming up, having 60 or 45 and even 70 [minutes], so we need to really dig deep and stay focused and get some results. We’re coming home to a loud crowd and we’re going to need them to get three points.”