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Minnesota United lost its first four matches this season, which essentially turned the last 88% of their schedule into a no-margin-for-error grind.

It was fitting, then, that the Loons finally chased down that bad start on the season's final day. Needing at least a tie to secure a postseason berth for the third consecutive season, that is exactly the dicey outcome Minnesota United delivered in Los Angeles.

At various points, the year provided validation for critics of Loons manager Adrian Heath. But by the end of the regular season , if we are judging merely by results, it provided a measure of vindication for Heath. Only a handful of MLS clubs have been in the playoffs the last three years, and the trifecta is also rare in Minnesota sports in general.

To reflect on the process and to look ahead to Sunday's playoff game in Portland, Heath joined Wednesday's Daily Delivery podcast. The impression one gets is that Heath likes his team's chances as it prepares for postseason play — and that he is relieved to be there.

"The one good thing (early) was the resilience of the guys," Heath said. "I think that's one thing that stuck through. After that 0-4 start, we had a good sit down internally with everybody. ... We had a really good recovery, and when I look at the season I think we have progressively got better. Getting all our best players on the field has certainly helped us. Normally that helps coaches when they get their best players on the field."

Indeed, the Loons only had their ideal attacking lineup on the field for nine matches this season, and Heath is very aware that they won six and tied two of those matches.

Leading goal scorer Robin Lod missed 11 matches. Second-leading scorer Adrien Hunou missed eight. Franco Fragapane missed 15. And superstar Emanuel Reynoso missed five.

All four should be available against Portland on Sunday, a team against which the Loons went 2-0 this season.

Heath's critics have suggested that tactical moves in games without all of the Loons' best players would have yielded results that made the final outcome of the season less dramatic.

"Hindsight United has never lost," Heath said. "Everybody I speak to says, 'In hindsight ...' Well I haven't got hindsight. I have to pick the team two or three days before (a match) and work on the team's shape. People have always got a really good opinion of what we should have done after the event."

We'll see if Sunday brings further validation for Heath or more fuel for second-guessing.