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Don’t Hit That PANIC Button

At least not just yet

April 24, 2021 - Saint Paul, Minnesota, United States - Minnesota United midfielder Justin McMaster (24) dribbles the ball during the match against Real Salt Lake at Allianz Field. (Photo by Seth Steffenhagen/Steffenhagen Photography)

Walk away from the Panic button Loons fans. If the season were a 90 minute match, we would only be 5 minutes into the game. Sure you can critique a small sample size, but I certainly won’t just yet and here is why.

The New Kid

There’s a new kid in Minnesota, and while we won’t see him for an other few weeks, the assumption is Adrien Hunou could provide something that the Loons have been severely missing since Kevin Molino left for Columbus. The role of the goal scoring midfielder is something that is growing in importance in the global game, and while Molino did not showcase that skill for most of his career it was on full display at the end of the season.

The absence of Molino is being talked about enough to the point where I don’t need to add much, but if the Loons choose to fit Hunou in that role it could address some of the issues impacting this team right now.

Give Reynoso Time

I was one of the ones who came out and said we didn’t need Rey before the signing was announced, and while I won’t go through that again here I bring it up for a reason. I distinctly remember people being in my mentions about how Reynoso had such a slow start, and I tried to preach being calm. Be calm again here.

Emmanuel Reynoso is a rhythm player, and needs the other players around to be involved in that rhythm. It takes time to get back that sharpness especially with a few key changes in the players in the attack, which changes the structure of how the team attacks.

Minnesota United have looked good in the second phase of possession after they get the ball into midfield after building out of the back. Where they have struggled is the two other phases, Rey’s role is transitioning to the final phase in and around the 18 yard box. Minnesota United have not been able to have the change in pace of play in this area, and therefor are relying too much on inefficient shots. Our old friend Eli Hoff brought up a great point on a recent podcast, that these shots are like shooting a mid-range shot in the NBA. “They look good when they go in, but they are an inefficient shot”.

We should be giving all of the players time to gain sharpness (yes, I understand you’re frustrated with Chase right now but be patient) and because of this there will need to be a few more games before we can accurately start judging this team.

Coaching Staff

The Loons have been inconsistent in the first phase of building up from the back, with too many uncharacteristic turnovers, especially when the opposition presses. I fully expect this to be addressed this week with the coaching staff, and this group of coaches has the track record to expect this change to happen and not to worry. This coaching staff has done a good job over the years, making the adjustments they need to make in a timely period and it is something fans should expect going forward.

Where I think there will be room for criticism going forward, depending on how the season progresses forward is substitution patterns. This has been a regular criticism under Adrian Heath, and I’m not sure it will change even if they get the substitutes right from here on out based on how people treat Heath in this area. However, there is room for valid criticism not in the choices of players or when Heath makes the changes but the structure of these changes with the new rules.

The substitution rules, designed for a more condensed season, allow for a lot of new influence on a game from the sideline. This can be an innovative opportunity for coaching staffs if used in that way. With five substitutes over three substitution windows, it allows for additional flexibility in shapes for different moments. What I will be looking for is not how the Loons start in terms of a shape, but how the shape changes in different moments at different times.

Some have talked about the “1-4-3-3” that can change shape and allow for different players to shift into different spots in a sort of “1-3-4-3”. Whether it is with two players in the half spaces on each side of a striker, or two strikers with a central 10 in behind. These shapes in possession can be useful when they need a goal, but when they need to defend a lead there can be more drastic shifts in shape to a more pragmatic and defensive block shape. If the game were to swing back again, you would still possibly have a substitution window to make two subs in and revert back to a more attacking shape.

How the Loons choose to use these subs will be crucial. My view is that the sideline can have more of an influence if you are aggressive with the changing game dynamics. There is now the options for flexibility in different moments of the game, especially given the type of player profiles the Loons recruit.

Highlight from the Weekend

The unfortunate truth for the Loons faithful is that this shot from Seth Steffenhagen has been the highlight from the first two games. (Good stuff as always Seth!)

April 24, 2021 - Saint Paul, Minnesota, United States - A fan watches the Minnesota United vs Real Salt Lake match at Allianz Field. (Photo by Seth Steffenhagen/Steffenhagen Photography)

Be patient Loon’s fans this team should still be a good team, and they played like it during stretches. Let’s start looking how the start is gone after the trip to RSL, which should be the main event on a pay per view fight night based on how fast Heath got into the scuffle (and I love it).

Back away from the ‘Panic Button’ Minnesota!