Minnesota United lost the game and its composure in Friday’s squandered 4-3 defeat at Toronto, which was bad enough.
But now it will go forward to marquee home games Wednesday against L.A. Galaxy and Sunday against D.C. United without midfielder Jan Gregus and Francisco Calvo for at least one game each.
Gregus, signed in the offseason as the team's third designated player, drew a red card for taking out Toronto FC star Alejandro Pozuelo’s legs with an unsuccessful sliding tackle in Friday’s closing minutes. A minute later, team captain Calvo purposely kicked a leg out from under Toronto defender Auro and received a red card himself after he earned his second yellow card of the cold, wet evening.
United played the game’s final moments with just nine players. Both fouls will be reviewed by MLS, but each player will miss Wednesday’s game.
“As I said to the guys at the end, it’s not tonight that affects us, it’s next week,” coach Adrian Heath said by phone after the game. “We have two big home games coming now, and we’ve got two influential players who won’t be available. We’ll have to make sure we see where that leaves us.”
Friday’s finish left Heath’s team frustrated after it lost leads of 1-0 after 17 minutes and 3-2 with 20 minutes left by surrendering consecutive goals within moments of each other twice on Friday, just as it had done once in a 3-3 tie April 13 with New York City FC.
Toronto second-half substitute Jordan Hamilton scored twice in little more than two minutes, the second and game-winner coming when United defender Michael Boxall let a ball bounce 5 yards from the goal and let Hamilton head it past him.
“Obviously, he didn’t think he was there,” Heath said. “They pushed an extra forward by then. We should have cleared it. Bottom line, we should have got rid of it.”
Hamilton scored without Heath making a defensive substitution after United took a 3-2 lead on Darwin Quintero’s penalty kick in the 70th minute. Kevin Molino and Abu Danladi entered in the 82nd minute, searching for the equalizing goal.
“It’s tough when you score three again and come out with nothing,” Heath said. “We scored six goals in the last two games and only got one point to show for it, which is something obviously we have to sort out.”
His team will start to do so without Gregus and Calvo after the team’s defense collapsed by allowing Hamilton’s two goals and then lost its poise, too.
“We got ourselves back in a great position at 3-2; we’re far and away the better team in the second half and then we shot ourselves in the foot again,” Heath said. “We made poor choices, poor decisions, poor turnovers in the middle with the ball. If you continually turn the ball over in the middle of the field with good players ahead of you, you’re going to be in trouble.”
United on Friday played without midfielder Miguel Ibarra and center back Ike Opara, who missed Friday’s game after he banged heads with an NYCFC player last week and opened a gash over his eye that required seven stitches to close.
Without Opara, United held Toronto star Jozy Altidore not only without a goal but seldom a chance after he had scored five goals in his first four games. It did, however, allow Pozuelo to score two first-half goals within three minutes to erase that early 1-0 deficit.
“When I consider how well we looked after Jozy Altidore this evening, which we have, for us to concede four goals is a crazy, crazy last 20 minutes,” Heath said.
Without Opara, United couldn’t hold on to a lead.
“You always miss good players, don’t you?” Heath said when asked about Opara’s absence. “Obviously, you miss somebody like Ike. You miss his personality. You miss his athleticism. You miss his organizational skills. That’s why we brought him in. Ultimately, we’ll get him back next week and see where he is.
“If he’s not available for Wednesday, if we’re without Calvo, without Jan, without Ike, it’s going to severely hinder us. But, hey, that’s why you have a squad of 28 players. It’s up for other people to step up then.”