Minnesota United finds itself in a familiar position. With five matches left, their points per game, goals for, and goals against are tracking to be nearly the same as they were last year. For a team that admitted it got some things wrong last season, signed a number of new players in the off season, and have brought in two designated players, it is surprising that the results have remained similar.
Francisco Calvo and Rasmus Schüller are the only two players who started in Minnesota’s first match in MLS against Portland Timbers in March of 2017. Only nine players that were on the roster to start the inaugural season are still with the team. One of those players is Kevin Molino, who is out for the season, and another is Abu Danladi who has spent much of the season injured as well.
Calvo sees hope in the future, “We know each other better. All of us want to go to playoffs this year. If we can’t do it we have to fight again and try and get into playoffs next year.”
A playoff position this year is almost assuredly out of reach, but Minnesota players have frequently stated this desire. At the beginning of the 2018 season, Calvo made the same claim that he is making at the end of the season. As I reported in April, Calvo’s remarks have remained remarkably similar.
“I think it’s going to be a totally different game,” Calvo explained, referring to the upcoming home match against Atlanta that the Loons ultimately lost 1-0. “We know each other a lot. We know who will be playing next to you now. It’s the confidence.”
They have now had two years to “know each other” but the results remain largely the same.
When you look at the statistics from this season, there is not much change from year to year. This increase in “togetherness” has not changed the basic outcomes for the Loons, regardless of how the players might feel their familiarity with one another is impacting results.
And when you at the per match rates, it becomes more evidently clear that little has actually changed for the Loons.
|Season||Points per match||GF per match||GA per match|
There is only a marginal improvement in points per match, goals for, and goals against. There is not much that has changed for Minnesota United FC.
Here is the current projected point totals and goals for and against for Minnesota United. I calculated the 2018 season ignoring home and away, as there are only 3 home and 2 away matches left.
|Season||Points predicted||PF predicted||PA predicted|
A couple more points, a couple more goals scored, a couple fewer allowed, but not much difference between the two seasons.
For Michael Boxall, the consistently inconsistent play comes down to concentration, “I think it’s all concentration. I think when the whole team is at it, then the other team hardly gets any looks. And, I think it’s just a challenge for us to keep it at that level for 90 minutes.”
This has been a common refrain since the start of the 2017 season. While players might be less likely to provide an honest assessment of their team’s play for the media, at some point the team needs to somehow solve these “lapses of concentration.” That, or admit that there is something much deeper at fault for the continued failure.
Players know they are playing for their futures in Minnesota, as Heath stated after the match against Portland Timbers. For the remaining five matches, Heath expects the team to continue fighting for every point, a refrain he has stated before, seemingly praising effort over any innate skill. And yet, when he has the opportunity to praise the player who has put forth the most effort this season, Miguel Ibarra, he avoids it.
It makes one wonder what Heath is actually looking for.
With the comments that Minnesota United FC CEO Chris Wright have made to Meg Ryan of the Star Tribune, it’s clear that neither Manny Lagos nor Heath will be blamed for the issues with the roster. Instead, it is the players, with the Star Tribune reporting that the CEO feels that only “eight or nine players” deserve their spots on the roster.
So expect a lot of new signings and turnover again on the roster. Hopefully, this time Heath and Lagos get it right.
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