Last week, I talked to Minnesota United defender Brian Kallman about what the team needed to do to turn things around in the second half of the season. One of the things he pointed out was the team's performance in what he termed "crucial moments" - the first five minutes and last five minutes of each half, and the five minutes after Minnesota scores a goal. These are naturally the parts of the game when players' concentration tends to wander and the flow of the game is interrupted.
With that in mind, I decided to look back at the spring season to find out how true this was - and what I found was that Kallman had his finger pretty solidly on the pulse. 13 of the 23 goals United allowed came in the first five minutes or last five minutes of a half, or in the five minutes after a goal was scored - an extraordinary number.
To give you some context, I looked up the league-wide goal breakdown on San Antonio supporters Crocketters' website. Their numbers only break down goals in 15-minute increments, but what their numbers show is that quite a lot - nearly a quarter - of goals are scored in the final fifteen minutes of the game.
In that final quarter-hour, Minnesota got stomped; they gave up seven late goals in 12 games. Four of them - Carolina's late equalizer in Minnesota, Brian Shriver's two goals for the Railhawks when the teams played in Carolina, and Keith Savage's 90th-minute winner for Tampa Bay at the Metrodome - led directly to United dropping points.
On the flip side, United scored only once in the final 15 minutes of a game - Pablo Campos's winner at home against Fort Lauderdale. And they scored just one other time all season in the first five minutes or last five minutes of a half, or within five minutes of an opponent's tally, that being Simone Bracalello's goal in the fourth minute in Carolina.
Crucial moments, indeed. That 13-2 margin is as good of an explanation as any of why Minnesota struggled so mightily in the first half of the season.