Minnesota United needs a turnaround against first-place LAFC

Anthony Soufflé, Star Tribune/Star Tribune/TNS
·3 min read

Minnesota United coach Adrian Heath vows his was the better team in a 3-0 loss to FC Dallas last week and in a 1-0 loss at Portland on Saturday.

Now the Loons play the best in the West when Los Angeles F.C. comes to Allianz Field on Tuesday night.

The Loons are sixth in the conference after three consecutive shutout losses, including a 3-0 loss against Real Salt Lake on Aug. 31. They are currently two points from a home playoff spot or two points away from missing the playoffs. They have four regular-season games left.

Star midfielder Emanuel Reynoso trained with his teammates Monday morning after he missed last Saturday's game because of a swollen ankle, but Heath wasn't ready to declare him a starter until he sees how it responds overnight.

Starting forward Bongokuhle Hlongwane is out for the next month or more because of an injured knee and left-side attacker Franco Fragapane will serve his second of a two-game suspension for yellow and red card accumulations.

LAFC clinched a playoff spot three weeks ago and then lost four of its next five games, perhaps because it has little left for which to play until the MLS Cup playoffs begin in mid-October. By doing so, LAFC broke its own MLS record for fewest games needed to reach the playoffs, 25.

Los Angeles still leads second-place Austin FC in the conference by nine points.

Heath referred to LAFC star Carlos Vela and newcomer Gareth Bale on a team that includes other such talents as Cristian Arango and Kellyn Acosta.

"Obviously, they have a lot of talent," Heath said. "They take Vela off [the field] and put on Gareth Bale, you know what I mean? Not many teams in the league can do that."

Vela was MLS' Golden Boot winner and MVP in a 2019 season when he set a league record for goals with 34. LAFC won the Supporters Shield that year, its second in existence.

Vela also scored the first goal for the MLS All Stars in its 2-1 victory over the Liga MX All Stars at Allianz Field.

Bale is the former Tottenham Hotspur, Real Madrid and Wales national team star who has been used primarily as a second-half sub for Vela since he arrived in L.A. and MLS in July. Bale has scored twice and started once in nine games.

The two teams meet a rare Tuesday night, particularly after each played Saturday.

"It's the same turnaround as a Wednesday-Saturday [schedule], so it's not something we haven't done before," Loons veteran defender Michael Boxall said. "We've just got to get some rest, get everyone as fit as we can."

Heath said he talked to his players Monday morning about their FC Dallas loss in which they surrendered three second-half goals in about four minutes and Sunday's loss at Portland because of a corner-kick header allowed in the 61th minute.

"That's 180 minutes and apart from the mad five minutes, we've been the best team," Heath said. "We've been better than Dallas and better than Portland. … I've watched the [Portland] game back twice. We were really good this weekend. I wanted us to take that performance and take some confidence with it. The guys were devastated not to take anything out of the game with the way we play. So we have to keep going.

"If we can put up a performance like we've done those last two games going into this game, I'll be delighted."