ST. PAUL, Minn. – The objective for Minnesota United in 2019: Make the Audi 2019 MLS Cup Playoffs, after failing to reach the postseason in their first two seasons in the league.
They may not have officially clinched yet, but the doubts have been wiped away and they could perhaps even be called dark horse contenders for MLS Cup this year.
Loons sporting director Manny Lagos has had a much-discussed “Three Year Plan” for the club since they entered the league, and his plan has nearly fulfilled its expectations: The Loons are in third place in the Western Conference, while potentially improving on the objective, currently in contention to host a home playoff game.
“I think anybody would prefer to play at home, most teams take points at home, it proves that home-field advantage is huge; this is becoming a really difficult place to play,” Minnesota head coach Adrian Heath said after a comprehensive 3-1 win over Real Salt Lake at home on Sunday. “If we can get a home field game, and I’ve said it before, I don’t fear playing anybody here [at Allianz Field].”
With the playoff format this year moving to a "one and done" set-up, teams who host playoff games in each round have a significant advantage since each round is now only one game each. So the higher the Loons finish in the Western Conference, the better their odds will be of hosting a home playoff game, possibly more.
“Every game for us is going to be like a cup final from now until the end of the season. We knew how important this game was going into today – it’s going to be no easier next weekend in Portland,” Heath said. “Every game is going to be really really important from now until the end of the season.”
The Loons are staying levelheaded ahead of a playoff run, however, as they aim to set the bar as high as possible through this season's performance.
“I think when I came to this club, the goal was to show that we can build a franchise and a club here of consistency and winning culture,” defender Ike Opara said. “Being able to do that with the playoffs and hopefully hosting a playoff game is the right direction for this club. Hopefully we can get there and continue to build from there.”