If you thought the Twins making the playoffs this season was too good to be true, then buckle up because they weren't the only team from Minnesota to have a brush with postseason glory. The Minnesota United Football Club, popularly referred to as the Loons, managed to secure the fourth seed in the Western Conference playoffs. This was no small feat considering how competitive the West was this year, with the top five teams outside a dominant LAFC side all within three points of each other. A new addition to MLS in 2017, the Loons struggled to find an identity, finishing ninth in the West both seasons. This season they finally found their stride with the aquisition of new players like veteran Ozzy Alonso, defensive player of the year Ike Opara, and goalie Vito Mannone. These additions shored up United's defense and added much needed leadership, making them one of the most effective squads in MLS. The Loons rode their gritty defense along with a hot and cold offense to a surprisingly successful 2019 campaign where they finished with fifteen wins, eight draws, and eleven losses.
However, they capped the season off last night in true Minnesota sports fashion. They played Zlatan Ibrahimovic and a stuggling LA Galaxy side in a first round playoff game in St. Paul. United played well at home all season, only dropping one game, thanks to the best mf fans in MLS. Unfortunately, the contagious energy of the Wonderwall wasn't enough to push our boys over the hump. The Loons looked like the better team most of the game, controlling the pace with their possession based style. They had better scoring opportunities than the Galaxy by a mile, but suffered from their inability to finish on net, an issue that has plagued them all season. It definitely didn't help that their most creative playmaker, Darwin Quintero, was ill and out for most of the game. The Galaxy managed to score two late game goals four minutes apart, which ended up determining the game. Jan Gregus (Grey Goose) had an 87' goal to put United on the board, but it was too little, too late.
Minnesota sports are defined by brief glimmers of hope and glory that last a short moment before being absolutely crushed by big money coastal teams. The Loons demonstrated that last night, proving this heartbreaking fact of life doesn't stop on the soccer pitch.
Also, shoutout to the always humble Zlatan for putting some 'respec' on our name afterwards:
"This game was the most difficult game we played this season. They were good. They were confident. You could see that in their game."
Watch out MLS, cause we comin' for the Cup next year. #SayShh