2018 preseason - Adrian Heath
USA Today Sports

Minnesota United looking to start new season without opening wobble

Minnesota United FC head coach Adrian Heath has probably talked about the first four games of the team's MLS existence more than any in his life.

“Everyone knows we started badly,” Heath told MLSsoccer.com over the phone this week. In the first four games last year, the team allowed 18 goals and picked up one point.

But Heath is quick to point out that the team drew a line in the sand between that terrible start and the rest of the season. “We went back to the basics and watched video of every goal we conceded and the position of every player,” he said. "We got better.”

Some of that change just came down to the first XI getting enough time together on the field to build chemistry and players getting to know one another. With the July addition of New Zealand international Michael Boxall, the return from injury of Marc Burch, and the settling in of the other two regulars, Francisco Calvo and Jerome Thiesson, Heath says the defense started to improve.

Since the Loons’ last competitive match in October, the signings have been pretty modest compared to their Western Conference competitors. But Heath sees the addition of veteran Tyrone Mears and drafted defenders Wyatt Omsberg and Carter Manley as steps toward growth: “We are stronger and we know each other better now.”

That isn’t to say Heath feels the team is done signing players. At least one signing is imminent and technical director Manny Lagos says that strengthening the central midfield “will be a key priority.” Heath also indicated the team hopes to sign another defender and a forward before the season as well.

Heath acknowledged the Loons’ pursuit of Colombian midfielder Nicolas Benedetti from Deportivo Cali, saying that they “just couldn’t get it over the line.” But he is not worried by not getting any particular Designated Player targets.

“The most important thing is to get it right and you just can’t rush these things,” he explained.

Minnesota United play their first broadcast friendly Saturday as they play Charleston Battery in the Carolina Challenge Cup. Asked if there were any surprises in preseason so far, Heath points to Kevin Molino as standing out: “He was a bit inconsistent last year by his own standards, but he has looked particularly sharp.”

So far the Loons’ squad has been healthy and Heath hopes to keep it that way ahead of the March 3 MLS regular season opener against the San Jose Earthquakes (10:30 pm ET | MLS LIVE).

“As much as you want to win these games, the most important thing is that we’re prepared for that opening game in San Jose.”