Minnesota United FC has posted not only the worst start to a season of any Major League Soccer expansion team but also one of the worst two-match stretches of any team in the league.
After a 5-1 trouncing on the road against the Portland Timbers to open the season, followed with a 6-1 thrashing at home Sunday against fellow expansion team Atlanta United FC, the Loons have allowed 11 goals in two outings. That’s five more than the previous record of six that Toronto FC let through in its first season in 2007.
According to ESPN Stats and Info, United also became the first team to allow at least five goals in consecutive MLS matches.
All that added up to a bit of an impromptu training session at 9 a.m. Monday.
“We had to come in today,” coach Adrian Heath said Monday. “We had to get one or two things, speak to one or two players and get one or two things off our chest, I think. That was the reason we were in.”
Heath added that a session for the non-starters already was planned, but bringing in the first team became necessary after Sunday’s home loss just to “have a little chat” about what happened. The coach said most of the real work will start Tuesday.
Heath said he doesn’t think he’s ever been involved in 11 goals surrendered through two matches. While at Orlando City SC in its inaugural MLS season in 2015, his team did once allow nine goals in two back-to-back matches in August.
“The fact is that we’ve been poor in the two games defensively and then we have to move on from there,” Heath said. “I can’t dwell on if it’s the best of the worst record. … It is what it is.”
Midfielder Collen Warner was with Montreal Impact in 2012 during its first MLS season, when the team lost 2-0 to the Vancouver Whitecaps FC on the road and drew 1-1 with Chicago Fire at home to start the season. With nearly 60,000 fans turning up at Olympic Stadium for Montreal’s match, he said, the energy was similar to Sunday’s announced 35,043 crowd at TCF Bank Stadium.
The matches, however, were completely different. For one, Montreal scored the first goal and allowed only an equalizer. United did the opposite, giving up a goal in the match’s opening minutes and falling behind 3-0 before it scored.
“Of course, when we lose 6-1, all of you only see the four-back,” said center-back Francisco Calvo, referring to himself and three fellow defenders. “But I think we have to put that qualification for all the team. … We have to still play together.”
Heath echoed that sentiment, saying it would be unfair to single out the defenders and goalkeeper for criticism when the protection in front of them wasn’t enough.
While the defense is a debacle, the offense has at least looked decent. Its two goals scored through two matches puts the team solidly in the middle of the MLS pack. United held possession of the ball for 49.4 percent of the time against Atlanta, not as good as the 53.6 percent in the Portland match. But the Loons had more genuine scoring chances in the opponent’s box, especially late in the first half.
Perspective, though, is hard to gain after one of the worst starts to a season.
“Nobody’s panicking because, yeah, it’s two games into the season. The main focus is for us to grow as a team,” Warner said. “It’s definitely going to take us some time to get where we want to be.
“And at the same time, though, these results, they’re not acceptable in anybody’s mind.”
Keeper ‘unlikely’ Saturday
Goalkeeper John Alvbage, who left the Atlanta match on a stretcher with a few minutes to play after a collision left him with a gash on his left knee, shared updates on his Instagram account Monday, writing he could be out for one to three weeks.
“I just got the MRI result, and nothing is broken in my knee,” he wrote. “I got some stitches right now that have to heal, and it is swollen. I’ll be back with the team soon.”