Only a slim 1-0 margin eliminated Minnesota United from the U.S. Open Cup on Monday at the Houston Dynamo, a game that the Loons felt they controlled but were just unlucky in finishing scoring chances.
Yet for coach Adrian Heath, it was the last straw. After the game, he threatened big changes for the team, especially with a transfer window opening July 10.
"I'm at a loss to see how we lose games on the road when we can dominate with the ball, create chances. … We have to do something. We can't carry on just letting this happen," Heath said. "The most important thing is, we look at where we are and what we need to do to eradicate this lack of competitiveness on the road.
''I can't accept us being what we are on the road when I see us at home really competitive, as good as nearly everybody we've played at home. So it's not ability-wise, this is a mental thing. And whether it's individually or collectively, we have to come to terms with that as a staff and a club and decide which way we approach it to move on."
Heath said these next few weeks will be a time to assess if the club, which plays Saturday night at the Colorado Rapids, has the personnel to solve its problems. And if not, players could be coming and going until the transfer window shuts Aug. 8.
Heath said rather than targeting certain positions, he already has three or four players in mind as new additions. But not all of those are going to work.
"Unfortunately, Mexico is an issue for us at this moment in time because we've lost a couple [players] to Mexican clubs, and our window doesn't open at the same time," Heath said. "They've already started their recruitment for the following season, so that's something that we will have to address in future years, that we can't wait until our window comes around. We have to make decisions before that."
A source close to the team confirmed United is in discussions with Ecuadorian left winger Romario Ibarra. The 23-year-old plays for top-tier Ecuadorean team Universidad Catolica and has played twice for the national team.
The 5-8, 161-pound midfielder could take Alexi Gomez's spot in the lineup, as the Peruvian is on loan through this season.
Such an addition might help United's attack. When designated player Darwin Quintero came on, he sparked the team to six goals in his first four games. In the past seven games, United has scored just five and endured three shutouts.
"We'd get to the top of the box and nobody would shoot," striker Christian Ramirez said of the Houston game. "We'd try to find one more pass. So I think that's the biggest thing is, if we can start asserting ourselves, and Darwin takes a couple shots from distance [and] myself, be aggressive when I'm in there, to turn one instead of laying one off, then it'll open everything else up.
"We're just inches away."
But the players don't have much more time to cover that distance. Only four games remain before the transfer window opens to show Heath and the club they shouldn't let them go.
"If you don't show up and do your job week in and week out, then the coaches and the owners aren't going to wait around for you to have a good performance every three or four games," center back Michael Boxall said. "Your job's on the line, and people need to realize that every time you're stepping out on the pitch and representing this club.
"Everyone in the squad has had a chance to show that they want to be a part of this club moving forward," Boxall said. "Our owners have gotten a lot of things right in the direction we're heading. So if you don't want to be involved, then the coach can recognize that in how you go about your business on the field."