Minnesota United, like many sports teams, is very fond of its “one game at a time” cliché. But despite that trusty standard of a response, the fact is, the Loons have had the month of July circled pretty much since the 2017 Major League Soccer schedule appeared.
Starting at 6 p.m. Tuesday against the Columbus Crew SC, United will play six consecutive home matches at TCF Bank Stadium into early August. Five of those are MLS matches against teams with a combined road record of 7-32-6. No opponent has more than two road victories.
United (5-10-3) is familiar with those road woes, earning just two points in nine games. But at home, coach Adrian Heath said he has “no qualms” about the Loons’ performances at TCF, where the team is 5-3-1.
“If we start to win games in a row here, it’s definitely going to create a buzz and more people coming out,” goalkeeper Bobby Shuttleworth said.
The Loons’ attendance has been on a slow rise since starting the season with a 35,043 high March 12 in the snowy opener. For the next four home matches, announced attendance plateaued in the mid-17,000 range. But it has since drawn from the mid-18,000 to low-19,000 range for the most recent four.
Through nine home matches so far this inaugural season, Untied averages about 20,115 per match and ranks 12th in the 22-team league.
“Being the first season, you’ve kind of got to try to get a foothold battling against the other major sports teams here, but I think having some home games [will help],” defender Joe Greenspan said. “We’ve had great attendance so far. The fans have been on another level, I think. I’ve been really impressed. So I think we’re excited to get a bunch of home games, hopefully get some good results and kind of start building a bit of momentum.”
United will face Columbus with a very diminished roster because of injuries and national team duty. The Loons won’t play again until a friendly on July 15 against Mexican team Atlas, followed by an MLS match against the Houston Dynamo on July 19.
After Tuesday’s game, a league-wide break for the CONCACAF Gold Cup should give Heath’s squad a chance to recover as well as see the addition of some new acquisitions once the secondary transfer window opens July 10.
The respite is tempting to look forward to, but Heath has emphasized to his players the importance of finishing this first stretch of the season on a “positive note.” And United really should enjoy this grand homestand. When it goes back on the road for an Aug. 20 match at Seattle, the Loons will have only three home matches and eight road contests during the final three months of the regular season.
“I look at the month of October or whatever it is, and we’ve got a lot of away games,” Heath said. “But I’m hoping that we’ll be a different team by then. Hopefully have some new bodies and new faces, more competition for places because that’s what we need.”