Perceptions are a funny thing. Most of us at some point in time were taught to never judge a book by its cover. Yet, human nature instinctively makes judgments off of first impressions. A negative first impression is extremely difficult to overcome. Quite often, a negative first impression cannot be overcome no matter what. I’m not saying this is right or wrong, it’s just the way we are wired as humans.
You’re probably wondering what this has to do with Minnesota United FC? After watching MNUFC storm back from a 2-0 first half deficit Saturday against the Houston Dynamo, I started to question what the perception of the club would be if the three blowout losses hadn’t occurred. Since this is the internet and I have the power to make the Portland, Atlanta and New England games disappear with a few short keystrokes, I want to delve into the reality of what the true perception of MNUFC should be. To keep things simple, weeks 1, 2 and 4 were also eliminated for all teams throughout the league. The power of this internet thing is pretty neat.
What if I told you through four games the Loons were sitting middle of the table with a 1-1-2 record, having scored eight goals while giving up eight. Let’s also add into the mix three of the four games were played on the road in a league that is extremely difficult to win away from home. It should also be noted, the Loons have a player in Christian Ramirez who is among the league scoring leaders, with four goals in four games. The team is also in the top third of the league for possession, shots attempted, shots on target and goals scored. Now, I will concede having given up eight goals in four games is way too many but building defensive chemistry typically takes time.
Does this sound like a team that should be the butt of all jokes locally and nationally? Heck, maybe even internationally? Is this a team that should be continuously mocked and ridiculed for its porous defense? Personally, I’m thinking a 1-1-2 record through four games is a pretty good start for any team, let alone an expansion team. But perception alters the reality.
Despite my wizardry with a computer, I’m not the NCAA and I can’t make
Final Four appearances games magically disappear. The Portland, Atlanta and New England games happened. There is no denying it. It was bad and it was embarrassing. However, as has been discussed ad nauseam, those three games came down to a personnel issue, specifically two players in general. There is no need to throw those players under the bus anymore at this point. We all know who they are. But the fact is, those three games to start the season left such a horrific first impression, MNUFC may never recover their reputation despite what the reality is telling us despite those three performances.
Everything mentioned above is true, except Christian Ramirez has five goals, not four. MNUFC are a dangerous attacking team. They are going to score goals and they are going to make teams pay for defensive mistakes. We came into the season wondering if Superman could score in MLS and now we’re wondering if he could be in the Golden Boot discussion. There are still issues to clean up on the backend but they now have a solid foundation in place to build off of. They’ve addressed a major need through a trade and brought in two well-respected MLS veterans who will only continue to gel with their new teammates the more they play together. I believe the days of cringing every time the opposition has the ball are over. It may still not always be pretty but they are now making teams work for a win or draw. The pieces are starting to mold together and things appear as if they will win, or at least draw, their share of games as the season progresses.
I’m not going to sit here and say they are about to go on a run and make the playoffs. I’m still realistic about the team and the things they need to work on. They have yet to play a complete 90 minute game, which is the next step in the evolution of the club. But don’t let the perception of the three blowouts to start the season alter the reality the team is starting to figure things out and play competitive and at times alluring soccer.
Has your perception of the team changed as the season has progressed? If so, how has it changed? If not, why hasn’t it and what will it take for your perception to change? Let us know in the comments.