Minnesota United FC coach Adrian Heath has already put a rather hefty title on the 7 p.m. Saturday match at TCF Bank Stadium against Real Salt Lake (0-2-2).
“It’s a huge game for us, probably the most important game in this club’s history, I would think,” Heath said after practice Tuesday. “We need to get a win at home. We need to give our fans something to cheer about.”
While United is only four matches into its inaugural Major League Soccer Season, the team is winless at 0-3-1. It has also set records for the worst start in the league and worst four-match stretch, as the team has allowed 18 goals so far. That’s already more than a quarter of the way to matching the league record of 69 goals allowed in a single season.
Heath said after rewatching this last weekend’s 5-2 loss at the New England Revolution, he’s come out with some of the same problems that have plagued his team all season, mainly collectively not defending the box well enough. And while the Loons had some unlucky breaks – Heath said he didn’t think the second penalty kick United conceded was fair, as it happened outside of the box – they still need to do better translating the good work done in practice sessions to the matches.
The soccer community has not been kind to the Loons, but Heath said he doesn’t read any of the criticism because he can’t let that affect what he’s trying to do.
“If we get that result, that first win, everything seems that much better again, and then we go from there,” Heath said. “But it’s getting to the stage where we can’t keep saying this. It’s a case of actions speak louder than words a little bit.”
Help on the way?
United could possibly have some help on the way, as the team had a new trialist training with the team Tuesday. Abdoulaye Diallo is a 24-year-old center-back from Senegal who has most recently played with FK Jelgava of the Latvian top division.
“It’s his first day. He got in late last night. It’s going to be a few days before we get a better idea of what he is about,” Heath said Tuesday. “He’s big. He’s athletic. You can see that. But we’ll see a bit more and evaluate a little bit more as the week progresses.”
United is currently topped out on its 10 international spots.
Midfielder Johan Venegas was back in training with United on Tuesday after missing last week and the New England match on national team duty with Costa Rica. While Coast Rica plays Honduras later Tuesday in a World Cup qualifier, Venegas flew back to Minnesota early to see his newborn second child.
Venegas and his wife Kimberly welcomed son Eythan, 10.5 pounds, on Saturday at about 1:30 p.m. Well, Venegas was actually on a plane from Mexico back to Costa Rica at the time, returning from Costa Rica's 2-0 loss to Mexico on Friday evening.
Venegas said in Spanish through a translator that having another child will just make him play harder, and he is already searching for a good goal celebration in honor of his new baby.
Back in training
Goalkeeper John Alvbage joined in on full training Tuesday after he had been sidelined since the March 12 match against Atlanta with a knee laceration. Heath said the starter has been training hard, but the team will need to see how he is doing later in the week to make a decision on if he should play. Heath said he is working on an appropriate formation for the team against Salt Lake and will then work on the right individuals to fit that.
Third-choice goalkeeper Patrick McLain also returned to training, albeit separately on the sidelines, after a concussion. Defender Joe Greenspan also trained in full again after a concussion, and Heath said if Greenspan doesn’t show any negative reactions after Tuesday’s training, the center-back should be good to go.
Defender Francisco Calvo and midfielders Kevin Molino and Rasmus Schuller were still absent on national team duty with matches later Tuesday. Heath also said defender Thomas de Villardi had an operation on Tuesday and is expected to be out for the season.