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Minnesota United was searching for any optimism it could get as it entered Wednesday night's game at Los Angeles FC on a six-game winless streak.

Barely three minutes into the match, the Loons thought they had found some, thanks to an early goal by Hassani Dotson. And given that LAFC had gone more than six hours, in all competitions, without scoring a goal, the Loons had high hopes of being able to make their early tally stand up.

Those hopes didn't even last 120 seconds.

Less than two minutes after Dotson found the net, Denis Bouanga scored at the other end for the home team. The LAFC striker recorded two more goals before the first half was over, completing a first-half hat trick, and the rout was on as Minnesota was totally run over in a 5-1 loss.

"We were second best in every facet of the game," Loons coach Adrian Heath said. "We were poor with the ball, and even poorer without it. Five [goals] probably flattered us a little bit."

The defeat was Minnesota United's fourth in five games and extended its run without a victory to seven matches, tying a franchise record set during the doldrums of 2018.

MNUFC's early goal was right out of the Loons' road game counter-attacking playbook. Emanuel Reynoso picked up a loose ball with space, and a series of passes gave him a chance on the edge of the goal. His cross hit LAFC keeper Maxime Crepéau and floated gently into the air — right to Dotson, who couldn't miss with a header from about a foot away from the net.

Almost before the celebrations were over, though, Bouanga had tied the score. Minnesota couldn't clear the ball in its own penalty area, and the Gabonese striker swiveled and drove a shot through the hands of a diving Dayne St. Clair.

From there, the Loons were stuck in a shooting gallery for the rest of the evening. Bouanga tallied his second goal of the night in the 36th minute, as the LAFC forward snuck past a stationary, unsuspecting Ethan Bristow and side-footed a simple cross into the net.

Bristow, a 21-year-old Minnesota left back, has struggled since his mid-July signing, but his play on this goal was inexplicable. He checked over his shoulder, saw that Bouanga was lurking behind him, but still failed to either mark the man or attack the ball.

In first-half stoppage time, Bouanga completed his hat trick. He corralled a loose header from a corner, stepped around DJ Taylor and blasted a shot past St. Clair at the keeper's near post.

In desperation, Minnesota substituted both fullbacks at halftime, removing Taylor and Bristow. "We had to do something" Heath said. "We couldn't cope with Bouanga, we couldn't cope with [Cristian] Olivera, down both sides."

The substitutions, however, didn't help. Sixty seconds into the second half, an LAFC cross deflected off center back Miguel Tapias and into the back of the net — an own goal that made it 4-1.

Filip Krastev added to LAFC's lead midway through the second half, after a bad giveaway from Kervin Arriaga. The Loons midfielder didn't seem to see Krastev in front of him, and all the young Bulgarian had to do was rush the ball down the field and put a simple shot past St. Clair.

For the night, LAFC had 14 shots on target to Minnesota's two. The loss dropped MNUFC to 12th place in the Western Conference. The Loons likely need two wins in their final two games to have a chance at a playoff berth.

"I thought they were hungrier than us. I thought they wanted it more than us," Heath said. "That's never an easy thing to say to a group of players."

The Loons' season isn't over yet. But their search for any kind of hope continues.

The Star Tribune did not send the writer of this article to the game. This was written using a broadcast, interviews and other material.