While Minnesota United’s slim playoff hopes are still clinging to life after a big victory at Atlanta on Tuesday, coach Adrian Heath has remained adamant that these last few matches of the Loons’ inaugural MLS season are very important regardless.
“There’s still so much to play for,” Heath said of the Loons’ final three games. “Every single one of these players is playing to be in the thoughts in the process of what we’re trying to build.”
Heath has mentioned several times how he is looking forward to the offseason, where he will work extensively to strengthen the roster. The club already has made several additions and subtractions during the season that have helped, but Heath sees more work to be done.
“You don’t have to be Einstein to work out that we’re going to have to try to change a lot of things around,” Heath said. “And obviously, the way that we finish and the way that we’ve gone between this year will determine who’s here and who’s not here next year.”
Forward Christian Ramirez, the team’s leading scorer, said adjustments were inevitable.
“We knew that that would happen with the offseason the club had and the team being put together so quickly,” Ramirez said. “We knew that some pieces were going to fit and fall in place, other pieces weren’t. So I think we’ve done a good job of balancing that and continuing to build on the core that we had.”
United plays its final home match 7 p.m. Saturday at TCF Bank Stadium vs. Sporting Kansas City, their fourth matchup this season. In addition to playing three matches in the span of a week, including two away, the Loons will be missing five key players Saturday.
“It’s hard on the body and stuff, traveling a lot, but I mean, we’ve just got to get on with it,” winger Sam Nicholson said.
Midfielder Johan Venegas and center back Michael Boxall left for national team duty with Costa Rica and New Zealand, respectively, ahead of the Atlanta match. Three more will depart after Atlanta for the same reason: center back Francisco Calvo to Costa Rica, midfielder Kevin Molino to Trinidad and Tobago and center back Jermaine Taylor to Jamaica. All five will return before the Oct. 15 match at the LA Galaxy. The Loons’ final regular-season match is Oct. 22 at San Jose.