Done with the first three of five road games that start its season, Minnesota United flew home Sunday from Los Angeles with a bye week awaiting.
It has work to do after Saturday’s 3-2 loss to the Galaxy ended its opportunity for an undefeated season.
United trailed 2-0 in a first half that acting head coach Mark Watson said “wasn’t like us.” The Loons discovered some second-half life fueled by substitutes Abu Danladi, Ethan Finlay and Angelo Rodriguez that wasn’t enough to prevent their season’s first loss.
Now United has that bye week upcoming, granted at the Loons’ request because of a FIFA international break when five of its players depart for national-team duty.
“We’ll look at everything,” Watson said. “Obviously, there’s stuff to work on.”
Head coach Adrian Heath is expected back for this week’s training after he missed Saturday’s game and four training days last week because of a tooth infection and oral surgery. Watson coached Saturday in Heath’s absence.
Meanwhile, Francisco Calvo, Romario Ibarra, Jan Gregus, Rasmus Schuller and Romain Metanire this week join their national teams for international play.
United didn’t allow a goal in general play and recorded its first MLS road shutout in its 2-0 season start. On Saturday, the Loons surrendered Jonathan Dos Santos’ penalty-kick goal in the 35th minute and Chris Pontius’ goal from close range five minutes later.
Afterward, Watson called the first half “disappointing.” He also lamented his team’s lack of “aggression” and “fight” that allowed a Galaxy team missing Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Romain Alessandrini to do to it what United had done winning its first two games: control play with its attacking outside backs and better midfield play.
“That’s something you have to have if you’re going to get something on the road,” Watson said, referring to aggression and fight or lack thereof.
Watson noted United’s inability to put pressure on the ball, which allowed the Galaxy too much time and space to attack as well as far too many crossing passes into the box.
“We were second best,” Watson said. “That’s not something we showed in the first couple games or even the final games of preseason.”
That changed after halftime — and after United used its three substitutions to find its missing energy. Finlay was the first substitution, Rodriguez and Danladi followed after that. A minute after Danladi came on, Gregus scored his first MLS goal on a long strike from outside the box that went through Galaxy goalkeeper David Bingham in the 74th minute.
The Galaxy answered six minutes later with Sebastian Lletget’s volley from close range, and Rodriguez’s goal into an open net — created by Danladi’s header that hit the post — made it 3-2 in the 86th minute. United applied pressure the rest of the way but never scored the equalizer.
Rodriguez’s goal was his first this season on his way back from a preseason groin injury. Danladi’s appearance was his first after a preseason ankle injury. Expect Heath and his coaches to find more time for all three of Saturday’s subs as time goes by.
“We know we’re not the finished article,” Watson said. “We know we have a lot of work to do. That game showed us there obviously are things to work on. But we’ll take some positives out of it with the fight and character we showed in the second half.”