While Minnesota United’s defense seems to be falling apart, its offense is coming together.
Glaring errors continue to plague the Loons, who have allowed 21 goals in 11 games this year, including three on Saturday in a home loss to San Jose.
But the attack is finding some solid chemistry among its front four.
Striker Christian Ramirez and playmaker Darwin Quintero combined with wingers Miguel Ibarra and Alexi Gomez to lead the Loons. And while this was actually the first game they all started together, this lineup looks to be United’s go-to going forward.
Coach Adrian Heath said even in the loss to San Jose, he thought his attack boded well for the future.
“The interchange. The combination play of the people in the front positions,” Heath said of what went well. “I thought Darwin Quintero was fantastic. I really did. And we’re starting to play better with him now. So, that’s a real positive for us moving forward. I know we will get better at forward areas.”
The four will likely work together again Sunday at TCF Bank Stadium when Sporting Kansas City, a regional rival and one of the top teams in the league, visits.
“I think he understands my game pretty well, and I am starting to pick up his game and his tendencies,” Ramirez said of Quintero, the Loons’ marquee signing who joined a little more than a month ago. “The more time we get on the field together, the more dangerous we will be. He is pretty easy to play with. He makes my job a lot easier.”
Ramirez, Quintero and Ibarra have combined for five goals and five assists, but there’s still much more to see. Quintero has been with the team for only six games while Gomez, who came to the Loons a month ago, has started the past three matches.
Ibarra didn’t become a regular starter until two games into the season, and Ramirez has struggled with small injuries that have limited him to nine games and six starts.
But this attack is very different from the one United planned to employ at the beginning. Season-ending injuries to playmaker Kevin Molino and winger Ethan Finlay quickly shot that plan down, but it did pave the way for Ibarra’s resurgence.
The Loons also traded away one of their starting wingers from the season opener, Sam Nicholson, in order to gain outside back Eric Miller. But even the defender has offensive contributions.
“Miguel and Alexi are both really easy guys to play with,” Miller said of playing out wide. “Both offer some different stuff, but both of those guys are great to try to overlap run. Hopefully moving forward, it is something I continue doing.”
United will need that help, because while the squad has been pretty good at creating chances, it doesn’t always finish them, as evidenced by both Ramirez and Quintero rattling the goalposts at key moments in consecutive games.
“The first half was probably the best we have had,” Ramirez said of the offense against San Jose. “The combination between myself, Darwin, Miguel and Alexi, we are going really well. So as long as we can continue to pick those spots up, I think we will be all right going forward.”