Minnesota United coach Adrian Heath warned his streaking team all week about the dangers Saturday’s home game against last-place Vancouver presented — and did all he could to keep it from believing victory was already its own.
United’s unbeaten streak in MLS and U.S. Open Cup games reached nine with Saturday’s scoreless draw against a Whitecaps team that was outscored 17-2 in its previous five games, all losses.
But that draw at Allianz Field wasn’t about the qualities Heath feared his team might lack in a game set as a trap. Rather, it’s what he calls a team’s “quality,” its talent to convert scoring opportunities into goals.
Afterward, Heath praised his players’ “effort, desire, energy.” But he lamented their ability to turn one of 37 crossing passes — aimed from the wings toward the 18-yard penalty box that Vancouver so diligently defended — into a single goal.
From striker Angelo Rodriguez’s sliding miss at the far post in the game’s third minute to star Darwin Quintero’s back-side shot that Whitecaps goalkeeper Maxime Crepeau covered as stoppage time ticked out at game’s end, the Loons came up empty all night.
They took 16 shots, one that reached its target. Also among the missed chances: Rodriguez’s sharp-angled shot in the first half that hit the post, Quintero’s crossing pass that Miguel Ibarra couldn’t reach just before halftime, second-half substitute Mason Toye’s one-timer shot that went just over the crossbar in the game’s 74th minute, and Ibarra’s angled shot that went too high in the 85th minute.
“This was supposed to be one of those games, and I was worried about it,” Heath said. “But the things I was worried about didn’t come to fruition. The energy was terrific. The only thing lacking was the final ball in the [field’s] final third. I can’t remember the last time I was involved with a team that got 37 crosses on and probably didn’t get on the end of more than two or three. That’s an issue.”
The draw, in front of an announced sellout crowd of 19,845 fans, pushed that unbeaten streak to six games in MLS play and nine when you count the U.S. Open Cup games. It also still kept United from claiming victory and a full three points in a Western Conference playoff chase.
“It’s one point earned, but I think we feel like we gave two up tonight in the end,” United veteran midfielder Ethan Finlay said. “It’s obviously a game that we think we should win.”
United will play on next Sunday against Portland without Quintero, who accumulated another yellow card for a second-half hand-ball violation.
“Obviously it’s disappointing,” Heath said. “It’s strange. I don’t want to talk about it anymore because I don’t know what a foul is anymore.”
Darwin will miss the first of consecutive home games against Portland, the second one an Aug. 7 Open Cup semifinal.
“He’s a big player, but this team is made of 26, 27 players,” United goalkeeper Vito Mannone said. “Everybody needs to be ready to jump aboard. We’re going to miss his quality, miss his creativity. We’ve got players who can help us. That’s what this team is all about.”
When it was over Saturday, United had neither victory nor loss, neither three points nor none.
“It’s another point toward where we’re trying to get to,” Heath said. “I’ve been doing this too long to turn a point down. Points are important. It’s another clean sheet, and we’ll go again next week.”