Minnesota United scored three consecutive goals in three consecutive victories that it brought to Allianz Field on Wednesday on a perfect summer's night and yet the Loons couldn't manage a goal of their own in a 1-1 draw with Sporting Kansas City.
They took away a Sporting own goal just before halftime and a single point after the Loons won at the LA Galaxy and Vancouver and beat Real Salt Lake at home.
"We've got 10 points from the last four games," Loons coach Adrian Heath said. "Would we have settled for that four games ago? You bet we would."
Afterward, Heath lamented a start he called "very sloppy" and "too slow" and that didn't put enough pressure on the ball when Sporting had it or enough movement when his team had it.
Inexperienced and injury depleted, Sporting Kansas City had lost four of its previous six games. It also was 2-7-2 away from home until veteran and second-half sub Johnny Russell's nifty, and fortunate, goal in the 63rd minute — six minutes after he came on — proved the tying goal.
"We allowed a really young side to come in and have belief in what they were doing," Heath said.
Meanwhile, it took Heath's team until the second half to find its rhythm and pace, most of it coming from another masterful performance by playmaking midfielder Emanuel Reynoso.
He kept the Loons pushing forward with his precise, weighted passes and corner kicks threatened to score the winning goal right until SKC goalkeeper John Pulskamp turned away yet again consecutive headers by Robin Lod and Luis Amarilla right before game's end.
"We have been doing really well, scoring a lot of goals," Lod said. "And of course, we expect to do them here in the home games and today we didn't."
Goalkeeper Dayne St. Clair kept the game scoreless well into the first half with his range and reactions while Pulskamp kept the game tied until stoppage time's end with big stops when he needed them.
"They probably think they deserve something from the game," Heath said, "and they're probably right."
The Loons haven't had a four-game winning streak since 2019, when they won seven consecutive games in mid-summer.
They have allowed only one goal in the first half of their last 10 games, but second-half goals allowed remain an issue. Despite St. Clair's fine play that has earned him a MLS All-Star Game spot, the Loons haven't delivered a shutout in their last 12 MLS games.
This time it was Russell who spoiled the clean sheet by scoring just after he had entered the game. Russell has 11 goals against the Loons after he went around — or maybe through — defender Bakaye Dibassy.
Dibassy stopped him initially, but Russell powered through and past and scored on St. Clair, who was helpless to stop his shot aimed low at the back post.
"He's done that for years," Loons center back Michael Boxall said. "We've seen that exact shot and finish with his left foot so many times."
Heath attributed his team's sloppy start and single point won to fatigue and a schedule that has taken them from New England, Miami, Los Angeles and Minnesota to Vancouver and back again. He kept the same lineup four days after they won in Vancouver while Sporting Kansas City made a handful of changes to Wednesday's starters.
Heath made a halftime change — sending Joseph Rosales into the midfield and removing forward Bongokuhle Hlongwane — that he attributed to improving his team's energy and pace in the second half.
Loons pursue Colombian forward
Newly signed right back Alan Benitez could supply depth when his immigration paperwork clears. After Wednesday's game, Heath was asked about the club pursuing 23-year-old Colombian forward Mender Garcia.
"When it's signed, we'll let you know," Heath said. "At the end of the day, it'd be easy for me to say it's all done. It's not. We've still got a bit of work to be done on that one, but we're hopeful."