MINNEAPOLIS -- What a difference a year makes.
In front of a sellout home opener crowd on a brisk, sunny, early spring afternoon, Minnesota United FC won 2-1 over Chicago Fire on Saturday at TCF Bank Stadium. While the season is still young, the win put the Loons above .500 for the first time in their MLS history, with six points through three matches.
At this point in the inaugural 2017 season, Minnesota had only one point and had allowed a record 13 goals, including six at home against fellow 2017 expansion side Atlanta United FC.
SeatGeek has great deals for future MLS matchesGET TICKETS Official Ticketing Partner of Major League Soccer
After the match, the players and coaching staff were all smiles, confident that this year will be different.
“We've got a core group that we trust and believe in.” Minnesota head coach Adrian Heath said. “[Chicago are] a really experienced team who doesn't beat themselves so we had to work hard for everything we got. I thought we were worthy winners in the end.”
Minnesota struggled in the offseason to add major pieces after finishing in 9th place in the Western Conference, and entered the 2018 season having to rely on the same core as last year.
In spite of that, the team has had to rely on the increased chemistry that comes with having played and coached together for a year, and that time together is paying off.
“We're obviously a lot better,” Heath explained. “Everyone knows each other better. We are a lot more comfortable with each other than we were this time last year.”
For Heath, the result against Chicago supports his belief that it takes time to develop an expansion side, particularly for a club like Minnesota which has not gone out and made the big signings like other recent expansion sides LAFC and Atlanta.
“The players are starting to understand what it means to play for Minnesota and actually want to be here and want to grow the club,” he said.
The players can sense a change in the team too, with Ethan Finlay calling it a “mentality change” in the squad.
“I came here to be part of something special,” the midfielder, who assisted the winning goal, remarked after the game, “We have to pride ourselves on the attitude and the work ethic and everything else will take care of itself.”
“We know we didn't have the start [we wanted] last year, and coming in and getting two wins, it's big for us," he said. "It's going to keep our confidence and our morale up. We just got to keep working.”