Following Minnesota's 1-0 loss to New York at the National Sports Center (David La Vaque's game story is here), it was difficult to find a United player who didn't feel like his team had played well - or one that wasn't crushed to have lost the game anyway.
Miguel Ibarra said he thought Minnesota had the better of the play. "I think we dominated the second half, attacking them," he said. "It’s just unlucky, we couldn’t get the ball in. I think the team gave it all they had. It’s just unlucky."
United had a number of chances; in the first half, Ibarra flashed a cross across the face of goal, but Pablo Campos couldn't find a touch on the ball, sliding in, to turn it into the net. Mike Ambersley was through on New York keeper Kyle Reynish in the second half, but couldn't get a shot away; later Ambersley had some space on the penalty spot to shoot, but his shot was blocked by a defender closing in.
"We couldn’t finish, we couldn’t put the ball in the net," said Campos. "That hurt us. That’s what happens when you don’t score the goal - you get scored on."
On the flip side, New York took advantage of Cristiano Dias slipping over on the rain-soaked NSC field, and Paulo Mendes smashed a shot past Matt Van Oekel for the game's only goal.
"I thought we had some chances, and unfortunately they snuck one of theirs in and we didn’t," said captain Aaron Pitchkolan. "It’s disappointing."
Head coach Manny Lagos couldn't fault his team's effort. Said the coach, "Certainly, I thought as a unit we really put everything on the field, and I think the fans kept us going and I thought our players kept the crowd going, because we still believed we were going to get one back and maybe even get a winner."
With four games to go, Minnesota is now seven points behind the Cosmos, and while mathematically it's possible for New York to come back to the rest of the pack, it's unlikely. The Cosmos have Carolina (which cannot win on the road) at home, along with a home game against Edmonton; they finish with road games at San Antonio and Atlanta, but by then, the fall title could be more or less wrapped up.
It gave the postgame a distinct end-of-season feel, like the playoffs were over and the offseason was starting. Nobody was ready to admit defeat for the fall season, but you could see on each of their faces that they know it's going to take a minor miracle to get back into the race.
"I was very disappointed, I’m pretty sure the whole team was," said Ibarra. "I think the whole team fought until the end, and I think we deserved a tie at least if not the win. It’s just soccer. Unlucky."