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Does Minnesota United have a discipline problem?

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The Loons ranked near the bottom of the list in terms of yellow and red cards.

Bob Red Card
Fernando Bob receives a red card for a hit on Diego Valeri
Tim C McLaughlin

If ever there were a team to have 99 problems, it would almost certainly be Minnesota United. And, to complete the saying, discipline is most certainly one.

The Loons racked up 69 yellow cards in 34 games. Only two teams — the New England Revolution (79) and Colorado Rapids (90) — had more. The situation looks worse in terms of red cards: Minnesota has the most in the league, 7, along with the Vancouver Whitecaps.

Though United’s frequent conceding is likely the top concern heading into the offseason, the players’ passions for cardage must also be addressed.

Twenty one different players were cautioned over the course of the season, according to whoscored. The team’s worst offender was captain Francisco Calvo, picking up nine by himself, about a quarter of LAFC’s team total. Michael Boxall scooped up seven, and Collen Warner, Maximiano, Rasmus Schuller and Ibson all finished with five.

There’s an argument to be made that picking up all of these cautions was necessary. In many cases, earning a yellow card is more desirable than conceding a goal, or even a good chance at one. On a team that lets in over 70 goals, there will certainly have to be some disciplinary sacrifices.

Brent Kallman is an anomaly, then. Despite starting 22 games and appearing in 2 others, he picked up just one yellow card. Calvo started 26.

Perhaps it’s a testament to Kallman’s ability as a defender that he can competently defend without finding himself in the referee’s notebook. Or perhaps he needs to stop playing nice if the Loons are ever to concede a respectable amount of goals.

The correlation between yellow cards is very slight. With an r-squared value of 0.15, only 15% of the variability in league position (Supporters Shield) can be attributed to discipline. So it’s not a major concern, but it’s a concern nonetheless.

Cautions accumulate fast, and players like Calvo, who miss matches for national team duty, need to be on the pitch as much as possible for their team. Suspensions don’t do much to help that cause.