MLS Focus: New season, old issues for Loons

The 2018 season started in the same manner for Minnesota United as the 2017 expansion campaign ended: with a defeat in San Jose.

The score was the same, 3-2 for the home team, and Danny Hoesen-- scorer of one goal last year -- netted twice for the Quakes. The dynamics of the games were different yet a few of the problems plaguing MNUFC have not changed.

Last October, in the season finale the Loons rallied twice from one-goal deficits and were in position to bag a point when they conceded again in stoppage time. On Saturday, they were punctured twice a minute apart in the first half and didn’t get off the ground until after conceding a third.

Two late goals by Kevin Molino and the team’s fighting spirit drew praise from head coach Adrian Heath, who was forced into an early injury substitution when Abu Danladi had to come off in the 29th minute, right after the Loons conceded a pair of goals a minute apart. For witnesses of numerous breakdowns that plagued MNUFC’s inaugural season the images were all too familiar.

“We gave it away again, didn’t we?” said Heath about the second goal. “Twenty-five minutes into the first half, we had control of the game, I thought we were comfortable in the match and then we conceded and then gave away another within two minutes and gave ourselves a mountain to climb. We do that too much, we do it too often, we’ve done it before. We just have to reset the button once it goes to 1-nil and keep doing what we were doing.”

But the Loons were battered for the remainder of the half, could not secure any foundation in midfield, and were fortunate keep the deficit at two. San Jose piled up an 11-2 shots advantage in the first half and struck what seemed to be a killer goal in the 59th minute when Hoesen slipped behind the Loons’ back line to tuck away a fine ball from Vako that followed a sublime series of passes.

If they were caught in transition on the second goal they were simply sliced apart on the third. Central mids Ibson and Rasmus Schuller did not move and cover for each other, which left the back line and especially centerbacks Michael Boxall and Francisco Calvo exposed.

Molino, who scored seven goals and led the team in assists with nine last season, broke free of the Quakes to score in the 81st and 85th minutes.

“[Molino]’s a quality player,” said Heath. “We need to get him back to 10, 12 goals and 10, 15 assists, because that’s what he’s capable of. That will be a big boost to his confidence and hopefully he can go on to bigger and better things from there because he’s certainly got the talent to be one of the better players in the league.”

On Saturday, though, MNUFC did not display much reason for belief it can be one of the better teams in MLS this year.

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