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Over the past seven games, Minnesota United has been in a free fall down the Western Conference standings. The Loons, in third place after defeating Sporting KC, have dropped all the way down to the 10th spot, out of the playoffs.

Since he took over the Loons, coach Eric Ramsay has mostly gone game-by-game with his approach. He rarely mentions the team's spot in the table, or whether they might be in the playoff places — but that doesn't mean he's unaware. And he's setting his goals for the rest of the season realistically.

"I don't think that probably top three or top four will be in reach for us, where we looked at one point like we may end up finishing," he said Tuesday. "I think it would have taken the upside to be realized to its full extent, when it comes to player availability, for that to be the case."

That said, this is still Major League Soccer, and one bad run — even six losses in a row — isn't enough to doom any team. Austin FC just went on a run of five games without a win, but a win against the Loons and another against New York City FC is all it took to get back into the last playoff spot. Portland and Seattle both earned just 13 points from their first 13 games of the season, but are now fifth and seventh in the standings, respectively.

MLS standings

"If we can start stringing some results together and be where we were, everything can be rosy quite quickly," said Ramsay. "I do genuinely get a sense that for as quickly as it's changed against us, it can very, very quickly change back in our favor."

Minnesota United's MLS schedule

Thanks to the upcoming Leagues Cup, Minnesota's remaining 12 MLS games are split into two chunks: three games next week, then a season-ending run of nine games that begins July 24. For Ramsay, there are two markers to look forward to: the returns of goalkeeper Dayne St. Clair and striker Tani Oluwaseyi, likely for the July 17 game against DC United, and the opening of the league's transfer window, on July 18.

"I think even if the worst-case scenario transpired and we find the next three games difficult … I would fancy the group to be feeling as though we could win five of those last nine games, Ramsay said. "... That's a mentality that I'm really conscious of instilling, but I don't think it's going to take much prompting from me for the group to feel that way."

Travel warrior

Copa América and Minnesota's shallow squad put several Loons players into a strange situation of hopping between country and club — none stranger than midfielder Alejandro Bran. The Costa Rican played the final 13 minutes of his national team's game against Paraguay on a Tuesday night in Austin, Texas — then got up in the morning, hopped on a plane to Minnesota, and was in the starting lineup for the Loons on Wednesday night.

"I'm taking advantage of my youth," said Bran, who is 23. "That's something that I can do right now, I can travel and play both games."

With Wil Trapp out with a hamstring injury, Bran has suddenly been an important piece for the Loons. Before leaving for Copa América, he'd been an unused substitute for MNUFC in five consecutive games, and had been playing games with MNUFC2 just to keep in shape.

Since his return, though, he's started both games for the first team. Midfielder Carlos Harvey was in almost the same situation, with Panama; he played the second half in Panama's 5-0 loss to Colombia on Saturday, then 14 minutes for the Loons on Sunday.

"I think in their performances in the tournament and the performances since they've been back, they've both shown some nice signs of progression," said Ramsay. "So I'm really looking forward to how they slot in, at the moment."

Injury update

Fullback DJ Taylor left Sunday's game with a recurrence of the same hamstring injury that kept him out of the lineup for nearly three weeks at the beginning of June, and will be out for at least a month.

"I think it's just a symptom of a squad that's been stretched to its limit and some of the decisions we've had to take, and not had a choice to [not] take with DJ," said Ramsay.

Midfielder Moses Nyeman also left Tuesday's training session early, in the company of a trainer, while Trapp ran on the side as he works back from his own hamstring problem.