NOTEBOOK: Loons double down with back-to-back wins at Allianz Field in four-day-span
Seven goals scored in the span of two days, a clean sheet and six points counted for at Allianz Field saw Adrian heath’s Minnesota United storm the MLS Western Conference table from 4th place Sunday afternoon to top of the table Wednesday evening.
A 4-0 bashing against a depleted Real Salt Lake side and a gritty 3-2 win over FC Dallas have the Loons in high spirits ahead of a *checks team schedule* third match against I-35W rivals, Sporting Kansas City, this weekend.
The Loons finally found their footing upon returning home after falling to an 0-3 start to the ‘league restart’ that followed the conclusion of the first (and hopefully only) #MLSisBack tournament that was held in Orlando during the month of July. The Loons found success in Orlando, making it to the semifinals of the tournament before bowing out, however, their success had stayed in Orlando until this past weekend.
- In a two-game span, Minnesota United fans have finally been able to see a glimpse of what their Finnish winger can bring to the team. He scored a brace against RSL, earning himself MOTM honors, and proceeded to follow up that performance with a classy assist on a Mason Toye goal against FC Dallas. Heath has moved him over to the right side of the pitch due to the prolonged absence of Ethan Finlay due to injury and he looks like an entirely new player. If the Finnish international can maintain his current form, there’s no doubt in my mind he could be up for team-issued player of the year come the end of the season.
- The Loons left back might be the best all-around American fullback in Major League Soccer at the moment. He scored his first professional goal Sunday evening against Real Salt Lake, which opened up the floodgates for the Loons offense. HE has played every minute of every single match for the Loons in 2020, back in March, in Orlando during the MLSisBack tournament and now during the phase 1 restart. He has shown up in every single match for the Loons while easily being their most consistent, and debatably, hardest working player on the pitch. Many were cautious about Gasper’s role in the team following a shaky start in Orlando, but he has since proved himself to be a leader on the roster. He’s controlled the left-hand side of the pitch while moving into a more attacking role when the Loons are on the counter. Rumors are swirling that he’s due for another call up to the U.S. Men’s national team, which isn’t surprising due to performances as of late.
- The Trinidad and Tobago international scored a brace to secure three points Wednesday evening against FC Dallas, securing a vital three points for the 10-man Loons in what was a gritty back-and-forth match. He also added an assist Sunday evening against FCDallas, in what might be the cheekiest assist of the year in Major League Soccer. Molino dribbled past the RSL defense and toyed around with goalkeeper before laying it off via a backheel to Raheem Edwards who found Jacori Hayes (okay maybe it wasn’t an assist but it was incredible).
- Bebelo has started the past two matches for the Loons and you can already see the difference he makes on the pitch. He helped the Loons with an assist in theri 4-0 rout against RSL while also picking up his first career MLS yellow card (nice, I know). The weight of his passes, his presence, the footwork - everything, it’s a step above what the Loons have had recently and it’s a game-changing acquisition. Mason Toye expressed how impressed he was with Reynoso postgame Wednesday while Heath has been overjoyed with his performances. Although he hasn’t gone a full ninety minutes for the Loons yet, it’s fair to say that he is surely looking like the type of player the Loons needed.
- Loons head coach Adrian Heath said post-game Wednesday that the team could be in the market for further player additions this upcoming window following multi-week injuries to key players Ethan Finlay, Luis Amarilla and Osvaldo Alonso. Goalkeeper Tyler Miller is out for the season while striker Aaron Schoenfeld is “one to two weeks out,” according to Heath. Here’s the full quote from Heath on transfer activity:
“We are looking. We’re looking. And, if there’s something that we think, you know, not just for the next two or three weeks, there’s something that can maybe help us, then, we’ll try and do it. We’ve got room on the roster. We’ve got money available. So, yeah, we’re looking. But, it won’t be a case of bringing a player in just for the sake of it. I don’t want to bring anybody in for the next two weeks and then realize that maybe he’s not as good or he’s not going to contribute as much as the people we’ve got here. Anybody who will be brought in will be brought in for the long-term.”
LOON DROPPINGS(RANDOM THOUGHTS)
- The 4-2-3-1 is working, like, really-really well. With a proper No.10, the Loons look like the full package, and mind you, that’s with injuries to four first-team players in Alonso, Amarilla, Miller and Finlay. Alonso is easily the largest loss for the Loons right now, as he’s been undoubtedly the best defensive midfielder in the league for the past 10 years. Alonso’s presence on the field is calming and commanding at the same witm, and while Hassani Dotson fills in brilliantly for him, the Loons are missing their captain on the pitch. Heath will have a few decisions to make this upcoming weekend against SKC though, as RB Romain Metanire is facing a one-game suspension due to his earning of a red card Wednesday evening against FC Dallas. Dotson is the only player on the roster that comes to mind in terms of a replacement at RB, as he filled in for Metanire in Orlando after he fell to an injury.
- Where does Thomas Chacon fit into this team, if, at all? Chacon was healthy, and on the bench, both Sunday and Wednesday evening but the Loons youngest designated player still did not see the pitch. He had an injury the week prior, which could play part, but there are still questions to be asked about the young Uruguayan. There were rumors swirling that a team in Spain had enquired about his availability during the tournament in Orlando, but Heath mentioned that due to injury and squad rotation, they still saw Chacon as a part of the roster then.
- Looming questions: Following two back-to-back wins at home, how will the Loons fare away at Children’s Mercy Park? Does Heath rotate tired legs (re; Gasper, Gregus, Boxall, Lod)? Is Bakaye Dibassy set to make his first start for the Loons, or is he further down the depth chart than we anticipated? Will Jacori Hayes make an anticipated start in place of Alonso, assuming Dotson is at RB, or will Heath change things up?
- Heath has finally found the right spot on the pitch to let Robin Lod flourish and it’s beautiful soccer being played. I absolutely LOVE the way the Loons are utilizing Lod as of late and I cannot wait to see if this becomes a constant.
- Reynoso is good - like, really good. He’s what we call a “maestro” in the soccer world, the game just comes easy and natural to him. It’ll be exciting to see what he brings to this side moving forward.
- Mason Toye has an immense opportunity in front of him right now. He’s currently the only healthy Loons striker as Amarilla is out until at least mid-October while Schoenfeld won’t be back for a week or two. He tallied his second goal of the season Wednesday night, which could easily be the opening of the floodgates for the former Indian University Striker. Heath has high hopes for the U.S, U-23 player following two consecutive starts for the Loons.
- Dayne St. Clair should probably be the Loons starting goalkeeper moving forward. Greg Ranjitsingh was given three straight starts to prove himself to Heath, and although the defense (frankly, the entire team) sucked, he let a few easy goals slide past him. It’s time for the 2018 NCAA DI National Champ to get behind the sticks for the Loons. He’s played great in his two starts for Heath’s side.
- The Loons are a good soccer team, but moving forward, it’s all about consistency. If they can keep scoring, if they can figure out how Mason Toye works, they’re set for a 2020 playoff run.
- If you’ve made it this far into the notebook, cheers to you. Wear a mask, social-distance and stay safe. It’s a fun time to be a Minnesota soccer fan.