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Notebook: Issues when up a man

Minnesota United seems to struggle heavily when up a man after the opponent has been issued a red card

MLS: Minnesota United FC at San Jose Earthquakes Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

That is the preface. Minnesota United has now had a card issued against an opponent with 69’, 69’, and 33’ left to play in matches, totaling to almost two full matches of advantage. The Loons have not managed a goal while up a man since the first minute of the first of these three matches, back in mid-August against San Jose. The Loons are simply unable to find the back of the net when they need it the most.

Adrian Heath was asked why this is the case after the match on Sunday evening.

“Because we’ve changed the way we’ve played. We’ve stopped trying to play through the field, waiting for openings, side to side, getting overloads on opposite sides, make the opposition… we’ve gone long, we’ve gone straight, we’ve been playing straight balls. The only place that they haven’t lost anybody is in the back. You know? It’s 4-4-1. So, that part of the field is still exactly the same. You have to move the ball. You have to move it quickly. Side to side. Get people in little holes. Get the little passes playing. Little combination play. Not long, straight balls, because, for a lot of central defender, that’s food and drink. And that’s what we’ve done today. We got desperate and played desperate instead of playing our football, which was getting us the opportunities.”

Ethan Finlay also corroborated Heath’s statement, saying.

“I don’t want to say that it’s panic cause I don’t think that’s what it is. I think that we need to continue to do what we were doing for the first 55-60 minutes there. I think at times we start to force it and maybe we get too direct and we expose ourselves, which is what happened tonight. And even then, I mean there were opportunities for us to prevent goal one and goal two in those opportunities. I don’t have a clear answer for you but there’s 11 smart players that should be able to figure it out, out there, and we’re not right now. So, it’s obviously disappointing. I think we still created some chances and [William] Yarbrough made a save or two, or the last touch was off for us this evening. I think we knew the second goal was going to be extremely important. Had we got that in the first half, I think it would have been a different game and I think if we get it early in the second half, it’s a different game. The moment that they get back in the game with their first goal, it’s a moment for us as a group where we need to just say okay, deep breath. We still have plenty of time to get a winner here tonight. I don’t know, our reaction wasn’t characteristic of what this team is all about.”

Regardless of reason why, the Loons have failed to capitalize and this past weekend it also led to a huge loss for MNUFC during a time where they could ill-afford to lose and drop points, especially at home. Minnesota was in a position to be fighting for a home playoff spot had they beaten Colorado Rapids on Sunday. But now they will be fighting just to make the playoffs for a third consecutive season, something even Heath is worried about.

“All of a sudden it’s been a great result for all the teams in and around us and below us. Gives them a little bit of belief now. So, when you look at the running, we’ve got to play each other. Got to go to Vancouver, LA [LAFC] are coming. So, it’s… they’re the games that are going to be huge for us.”