When a fellow teammate has to separate the team captain and star player after a midgame spat, and another player is in the thick of a postgame scrum with opposing players, it’s not exactly the classiest look for Minnesota United.
But the frustration boiling over makes sense, considering both coach and captain called United’s eventual 2-1 loss to the Seattle Sounders FC the most important game this season in terms of the Loons’ slim playoff hopes.
“This is a game that hurts,” winger Miguel Ibarra said. “We definitely needed it, and I think we had it. Late goals. Just, late goals.
“We’ve got to do better closing out games.”
The late loss Saturday at TCF Bank Stadium in front of an announced crowd of 24,482 dropped the Loons to 9-13-1 and ninth place in the Western conference while Seattle improved to 8-9-5 at eighth in the West and continued a four-game winning streak and seven-game unbeaten run.
The Loons looked pretty out of sorts early on in the game, and Seattle had prime scoring opportunities it failed to finish. But designated player Darwin Quintero turned that around, creating space where there seemed to be none. He received the ball in the box and made a tight turn to lose his defender before splitting two others and threading the ball between them for the score in the 20th minute.
United looked more alive after that, with new designated player Angelo Rodriguez, in his debut, hitting the post on a header before Quintero rattled the woodwork as well before halftime.
Those misses might have helped the Loons in the second half, when they started to fall apart again around the 60th minute. First, a video assistant referee review nearly called captain Francisco Calvo for a hand ball in the box. And then shortly after the Loons escaped that scare, Seattle forward Raul Ruidiaz put the ball in the back of the net, but the officials ruled it offside. Just after that almost goal, though, Calvo and Quintero were yelling at each other on the pitch, and Ibson had to step in between the two.
In the 90th minute, the Loons endured another video assistant referee review for a handball, and this one didn’t go the Loons’ way. Ibarra clearly committed the foul, and Seattle midfielder Nicolas Lodeiro made the penalty in stoppage time.
And then in the very last minute of stoppage time, Seattle forward Will Bruin scored the late winner. After the final whistle, winger Alexi Gomez had to be extricated from a scrum with some Seattle players.
“Second half, I don’t think we ever really got going. … Ninetieth minute, it’s still 1-nil. So to come away with nothing is little bit of a killer blow, to be honest,” Heath said. “When the six minutes [of stoppage time] went up, I thought the worst, I’ve got to be honest, because they were in the ascendancy. Our quality coming up the field and out the back was disappointing.”
The Loons now embark on a five-game road trip starting next Saturday at the LA Galaxy and won’t play at home again until Sept. 22. And while the team managed to lose this imperative game in a matter of minutes, Calvo said this doesn’t mean the postseason dream is dead.
“Our main goal is stay alive. Our main goal is get into playoffs,” Calvo said. “And we’re going to try our best.”