Minnesota United, which didn’t sniff the playoffs during its first two MLS seasons, can clinch one of the Western Conference’s seven playoff spots with a victory Sunday over Portland. And a little help.
The Loons will do so if they win and San Jose loses Saturday at Atlanta.
They also clinch if they win and FC Dallas loses or ties New York City FC on Sunday in a match that will start just as the Loons’ match ends.
It’s a new atmosphere for an expansion franchise that missed the playoffs by 10 points its inaugural season in 2017 and by 13 last season.
“We’re at that stage of the season where every game is an implication, either for yourself or somebody else,” United coach Adrian Heath said. “We’re in that situation until the last game of the season. Do we make the playoffs? It’s still not determined. Have we given ourselves a chance? Yeah, but then you start to get greedy. Then you want a home playoff game.”
United recalled defender Wyatt Omsberg from its Madison, Wis., affiliate when reserve defender Brent Kallman’s 10-game suspension came down after he tested positive for a performance-enhancing substance.
Now Omsberg or veteran Lawrence Olum will provide depth at the center-back position that Kallman previously did behind starters Ike Opara and Michael Boxall.
“It’s like having an injury at this stage of the season,” Heath said. “It’s something we hadn’t planned.”
United midfielder Ethan Finlay’s celebration of his victory-clinching goal in last Sunday’s 3-1 victory over Real Salt Lake was part knee-slide, part somersault when his knees failed to slide fully.
“I hadn’t done a knee slide since my surgery,” Finlay said. “I thought the grass had a slick look to it, but I was very much wrong. I tried to save it as much as I could. I’m just happy I got out of that one without an injury.”
Heath decided last week to start striker Mason Toye and brought Abu Danladi as a second-half sub for his mobility and pace against Real Salt Lake while he left Angelo Rodriguez and Thomas Chacon out of his top 18. That all could chance the next game, based on opponent and circumstances.
“Thomas is a little bit different,” Heath said. “He’s still integrating in. We don’t want to overload and overpower him with everything.”
• The MLS expansion draft that will supply players for new teams in Miami and Nashville arrives Nov. 16. Each current MLS team can protect 12 players – one more than past years – and D.C. United, Vancouver, FC Dallas, Houston and New York Red Bulls are exempt because FC Cincinnati took one of their players in the 2018 expansion draft.