Loons manager Adrian Heath was in the crosshairs after Minnesota United’s stunning 3-1 home loss to the Colorado Rapids on Sunday.
With his side looking to climb the Western Conference standings, United had a 1-0 lead when the Rapids lost a player to a red card, but Minnesota gave up three goals in the final 20 minutes. It was the first time in MLS history that a team trailed, went down to 10 men, then rallied to score three goals to win.
On Tuesday, Heath was asked directly how much of his team’s finish he would put on his own shoulders. The fifth-year head coach paused for seven seconds before responding in a 335-word answer which didn’t include him outright saying he would take a portion of the responsibility.
“… We haven’t done a good job of managing that,” Heath said of playing with a man advantage. “We haven’t done a good job of getting people in good spots. They do it for the right reasons. They want to help and resolve the situation but end up taking themselves into poor positions. … This is not something that we have not spoke about; it’s a bit undisciplined, really.
“… It was disappointing, and it was something that we spoke about,” Heath continued. “You should be a little bit more patient. Don’t do it, there is still 30 minutes to go in the game and we are trying to kill the game off within the next five minutes of a man being sent off. It doesn’t matter when it is. Control the game by keeping possession of the ball, and that is what you have to do.”
The sending off of Rapids’ defender Danny Wilson happened after halftime, so Heath was limited in how much he could direct and influence the players on the field.
But this is the third time this season MNUFC has not been able to find a winning goal after the opposition went down to 10 men. In the first two games, the red card happened well before halftime, but the Loons settled for a pair of draws: 1-1 with San Jose on Aug. 17 and 0-0 with Kansas City on Aug. 21.
All told, those seven points dropped when the club has been a man up stretches 170-plus minutes over three games. It’s the difference from the Loons (10-10-8, 38 points) hugging onto the Western Conference’s last playoff spot and being in a position to host a home playoff game with the fourth spot.
Center back Brent Kallman said players should have convened when the red card was being checked on Sunday to go over the plan of keeping their shape. But his comments on the situation mostly echoed Heath’s views.
“I thought we lost discipline,” Kallman said. “It was almost like we put more pressure on ourselves to go win the game and get the next goal and put it away. We felt that pressure, the need to go and do that, and that is part of the reason why we lost discipline. Maybe we were too aggressive in going forward.”
When the Loons returned to the National Sports Center for training on Tuesday, Kallman said Heath told the players: “Let’s get to work. We can’t feel sorry for ourselves.”
Starting a stretch of five games in 16 days, seventh-place Minnesota plays at 13th-place Austin (7-17-4) at 8 p.m. Saturday, but the expansion side isn’t in last place because of its home form. Verde is 5-7-2 with an even goal differential at Q2 Stadium, which has shown itself to be a good home-field advantage, as seen in the U.S. men’s national team’s 2-0 win over Jamaica in a World Cup qualifier there last week.
Minnesota has only two wins in 14 road games this season with a minus-12 goal differential, but could be able to play its front four attackers (Adrien Hunou, Franco Fragapane, Emanuel Reynoso and Robin Lod) together for the first time since July 18. That first-choice foursome has been on the field together for only 139 minutes all season because of injuries and International duty.