MINNEAPOLIS – Minnesota United's summer homestand is officially over, with the Loons set to begin a stretch of four road games in five matches with a tough test at the red-hot Seattle Sounders on Sunday (10 pm ET | FS1; TSN1 in Canada).
The expansion team is in dire need of a win. Over the course of five straight matches at TCF Bank Stadium, the Loons reeled in just four points. They have just three games remaining in Minneapolis, and find themselves planted at the bottom of the Western Conference with just 11 games left in their season.
“I don’t think we got enough points for our performances,” Minnesota head coach Adrian Heath told MLSsoccer.com on Tuesday. “Say we’d taken nine, 10 points, it would’ve taken us that much closer to the playoff line. Then we could have really been involved in that chase, instead of the four that we took. It does change the whole perception of it.”
The slump at home stretched across the entire MLS summer transfer window. Minnesota were very active on the market, signing winger Sam Nicholson and defender Michael Boxall on the first day, acquiring Brandon Allen and José Leitón on loan, adding rookie goalkeeper Alex Kapp, and moving a lot of allocation money for 2015 MLS Best XI winger Ethan Finlay.
Heath revealed that the Loons were "close" to adding another player, but that a move could not be finalized.
"If we would’ve gotten that particular player, it would’ve been a huge help," said Heath. "I wanted to bring people in who I thought can play in the first team. The fact that we brought Finlay, Boxall, Nicholson, Leitón’s coming in – they’ve proven that they can play at this level."
While Minnesota's front office was able make several significant additions during the summer transfer window, they are still unlikely to propel the expansion side into a playoff position. The club has gone 2-6-2 since June, and 10 points currently separate Minnesota United from the postseason picture.
“It’s made it more difficult,” Heath said of the club’s playoff odds. “We’re aware of that, and the fact that we have eight of the next 11 on the road is hard as well. Are we capable? Maybe the jury’s still out on that one. We can’t get too far ahead of ourselves, except for the fact that there’s so much to play for, for so many people.
"We can’t be negative. Every one of our players is playing for something between now and the end of the season.”
While finishing above the playoff line is the usual barometer of success for an MLS side these days, Minnesota players are going to be graded by a different rubric.
“I want us to be competitive until the end of the season,” Heath said. “I want players to play like there’s something on the line for them, because trust me – there is. If any of our players think that the season is going to taper away slowly, then they’ve got the wrong coach. I’m not going to allow that to happen."
That said, there is still plenty to work on both for the short and long terms.
“Early on, I think we were really poor," said Heath. "We had better players than our performances warranted. We have gotten better. I’ve generally been successful [in soccer], and I want to be a success here. We have to work to make the team better."