ST. PAUL, Minn. — Minnesota United’s postseason debut ended shortly after it started, with the LA Galaxy scoring two second half goals in a 2-1 victory, eliminating the Loons from the 2019 Audi MLS playoffs.
The Loons attack had “plenty of chances” to score prior to the first half whistle according to head coach Adrian Heath, but the Loons had only registered one shot on target by the break. Notably, Heath chose to start striker Angelo Rodriguez instead of Mason Toye, while attacking talisman Darwin Quintero was benched due to an illness according to Heath. Toye, who lit up the scoresheet in July and August, but whose form tailed off in the stretch run, wasn’t selected because Heath thought he “needed a break.”
“I’m disappointed, I thought we were the better team for large periods of the game,” Heath said. “We had the best chances all evening, I can’t remember Vito having to do anything up until the first goal.”
Heath noted that games like this come down to “small margins” and the fact that the team couldn’t finish in the final attacking third was a big reason as to why they’re not traveling to LAFC on Thursday.
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Minnesota’s lone goal came in the 87th minute of play, after Quintero, a 60th-minute substitute, found midfielder Jan Gregus at the top of the box, who struck a long-range curler into the bottom corner of the net.
“We didn’t have enough quality in the final third, I don’t know how many crosses we put in, we just didn’t do enough to get on the end of stuff,” Heath said. “I’m really proud of the guys, they put in a great shift again and you could tell that the desperation, they were defending really late on and when you consider how we’ve played, it’s a marker or how far we’ve come.”
The Minnesota defense had shut down the Galaxy attack all throughout the first half, and notably, Zlatan Ibrahimovic all game. Heath joked about Zlatan’s performance, saying that we “should enjoy it, he’s like Frank Sinatra, he’ll be dead before we know how good he is.”
The Loons four front attackers hadn’t scored a single goal in five matches leading up to tonight, yet Heath was adamant throughout the week that the attack could take advantage of a Galaxy defense that was notably the least effective of any team in the Audi 2019 MLS Playoffs.
“We turned the ball over too cheaply and you know, I know what it’s like in situations when you lose a goal and everybody starts running around and you stop doing what’s got you the success so far,” Heath said. “I don’t take a lot of satisfaction from playing a playoff game. I know tomorrow that won’t be any different for me, you know, I’m used to winning or being very competitive. Tonight, we’ve come up a little bit short.”
The Loons' third season in MLS didn’t end the way they had hoped, but it has to be noted that they reached a new level this year. After finishing 10th in the Western Conference in 2018, the Loons defied the expectations of many to come back and finish fourth in the West while also appearing in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup Final. They’re a team that has finally found their footing in the league after two years of struggles – the question now is how they build on it.