In blanking the San Jose Earthquakes 3-0 in Week 2 on Saturday, Minnesota United FC earned their second straight road win to open the season, and now sit in second place in the Western Conference standings.
It's an encouraging start for the Loons in their third MLS season, which will see them open Allianz Field next month and perhaps deliver on a long-discussed three-year plan toward on-field success in MLS.
For coach Adrian Heath, who was candid about the change this season in post-match comments on Saturday, the reason for the team's improvement is readily apparent.
"I've said this before, and I don't wish this to disrespect anyone, but we've got a team now that's comparable with a lot of teams. We haven't had that in the past. Suddenly, people think, 'Well, he knows what he's doing.' I've always known what I was doing, but when you go on the field, and the opposition's got a better team than you do nine times out of ten, it normally comes through. Now we've got a team that can compete."
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During the offseason, Minnesota retooled the team spine considerably, acquiring veteran goalkeeper Vito Mannone (whose experience includes a stint at Premier League stalwarts Arsenal), veteran defender Ike Opara, one of the best defensive midfielders to play MLS in Ozzie Alonso, and Slovakian international midfielder Jan Gregus.
It's also helped that Darwin Quintero — a Designated Player signing from last year — has started the season hot, leading MLS with three assists and sharing the lead in the race for the Golden Boot presented by Audi with two goals.
Minnesota's next test — the third in a series of five season-opening road matches before the new stadium opens up April 13 — comes next Saturday against the LA Galaxy at Dignity Health Sports Park.