Minnesota United played on without starting right-back Romain Metanire in its next big game, at home Saturday against playoff-contending rival Los Angeles F.C.
Versatile midfielder Hassani Dotson started in his place instead after Metanire received a red card and was ejected late in Wednesday's 3-2 home victory over Philadelphia.
Metanire threw the ball in the face of Union defender Kai Wagner after a skirmish of players from both sides in the 77th minute. That earned him both an immediate red card and an ensuing one-game suspension, which he served Saturday against LAFC.
Loons coach Adrian Heath attributed Metanire's indiscretion to a late-season playoff race. The temperature started to rise a week ago with the first of six final games Heath compared to cup finals in their intensity and meaning.
"When people get caught up in the emotion of the game, they do things they immediately regret because they know the consequences of what could happen," Heath said Friday. "His actions the other night could have been to the detriment of everybody."
Instead, the Loons repelled the Union for the final 13 minutes and all of injury time. They won a second consecutive game after winning at Austin FC a week ago and moved into sixth place in a race in which seven teams reach the November playoffs.
"We spoke about it, players learn," Heath said. "At the end of the day, it's disappointing, but it is what it is in football, I'm afraid."
It wasn't the first time Metanire's emotions have overflowed recently.
"I think we're at the stage everybody knows what's at stake and emotions are running high for everybody," Heath said. "I have no doubt the next four games we'll get instances of a similar kind because what's at stake."
Dotson to defense
With Dotson moved to Metanire's defender position, veteran Wil Trapp returned after two games away and teamed with Ozzie Alonso in the defensive midfield. Trapp missed games against Colorado and Austin FC after the birth of his second son, Charlie.
Alonso started his fourth consecutive game on a night when Heath put attackers Emanuel Reynoso, Franco Fragapane and Robin Lod together with striker Adrien Hunou up top.
Battling teams near and below them in the MLS standings these past weeks for the final playoff spots, the Loons suddenly found themselves just two points behind fourth-place Portland and a home playoff game.
They did so after Vancouver's late-night comeback victory over Portland on Wednesday night.
"That's how quickly it can change," Heath said. "I spoke about all the doom and gloom after the Colorado game. I get it. But you would have thought the season ended that day. I've been in this game too long. I know how quickly it changes. You're really one big performance and a win from getting some self-confidence in the group. "
"I'm not incredibly surprised because I knew if we had our best team out there, we're more than a match for every team in the league."
* Listed Friday as questionable because of a quad injury, LAFC star Carlos Vela was neither starter nor sub on Saturday. A Loon last season, Raheem Edwards started at attacker for LAFC on Saturday.
* U.S. Women's National Team star Carli Lloyd was set to join announcer Callum Williams and analyst Kyndra de St. Aubin in the booth during Saturday's halftime. Lloyd will play her final game in a 17-year national-team career Tuesday at Allianz Field in a friendly against South Korea.