Knocked down by Sunday's 3-1 loss at Portland and knocked out in the MLS Cup playoffs' first round for the second time in three years, Minnesota United coach Adrian Heath vows his team will pick itself up for a 2022 season that starts Feb. 26 at Philadelphia.
"We'll dust ourselves down," he said after Sunday's game. "Let the players have some time off. Let them recharge the batteries and we'll come back again. We'll come back hopefully stronger."
The Loons have decisions to make starting Tuesday through November's end on contract offers and team options that will determine whether such players as veteran midfielders Wil Trapp, Ozzie Alonso and Ethan Finlay as well as designated player Jan Gregus — who played 18 minutes since Aug. 17 —and longtime Loon Brent Kallman return for 2022.
They have pursued young Central and South American talent, including Honduran midfielder Kervin Arriaga and Brazilian forward Rafael Navarro, for 2022. They've done so after they most notably added starters Trapp and attackers Franco Fragapane, Adrien Hunou as well as prospect Joseph Rosales in the just-completed season that started 0-4.
The Loons also during the season signed Hassani Dotson and Chase Gasper to new contracts starting next season, with goalkeeper Dayne St. Clair still to sign.
"Certainly this is the best group we've had since I've been here," Heath said. "If we can add to it – which is going to be the objective in the offseason, to add one or two pieces with it, make us stronger in certain areas — then that's what we're going to do."
Trapp and Kallman are among the six players whose team options must be exercised by a Nov. 30 deadline — or not.
Trapp, 28, led the team in minutes played (2,804) after he signed last winter for a $747,500 guaranteed-compensation salary. He is the most likely to return of all players on which the Loons must decide.
"I'm just focusing on getting healthy, getting ready for next year," Trapp said after Sunday's game. "If anything, this is a situation where you're going to be motivated. I know I am. All that stuff you talk about in a day or so, I'm not thinking too much about it right now. This is a place I want to be. I believe in this group. I believe in this club."
Loons open season at Philadelphia
The Loons open their sixth season on the 2022 season's opening day, Saturday, Feb. 26, at Philadelphia. Their home opener at Allianz Field is a week later, against new Western Conference rival Nashville SC on Saturday, March 5, at 5 pm.
The Loons also will play at the New York Red Bulls on Sunday, March 13, at 1 p.m. A list of MLS teams' season and home openers was released Monday.
The regular season will end on "Decision Day," Sunday, Oct. 9, followed by three weeks of playoffs and the Nov. 5 MLS Cup. That's more than a month earlier than the 2021 season to accommodate the start of the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar, which begins Nov. 21.