Per the current MLS standings, Minnesota United FC is in ninth place in the Western Conference and just one point out of playoff contention.
Stunning what one win can do.
To be fair, United (1-3-1) is at least one match ahead of most of the conference after Saturday’s 4-2 win against Real Salt Lake. And, well, the team has given up 20 goals in five matches. But right now, the Loons are ahead of the star-studded Los Angeles Galaxy, so that’s something.
Unfortunately for United, this winning feeling might not last.
A trip to FC Dallas looms this weekend. Dallas was the best team during the regular season last year, going 17-8-9. This season, it is 2-0-1, sitting in third place in the conference despite being at least a match behind the other 10 teams.
Dallas could have won the treble last year — the Supporters’ Shield, U.S. Open Cup and MLS Cup — if not for a late-season injury to key playmaker Mauro Diaz. He likely won’t return until this summer, but Dallas has fared pretty well without him.
In fact, Dallas, which hasn’t played a match since a 2-1 victory March 18 over the New England Revolution, will play Tuesday in the final leg of the CONCACAF Champions League semifinals at Mexican club Pachuca ahead of its faceoff with United.
That quick turnaround with travel could be a small advantage for United. The most recent time Dallas played a midweek match followed by a weekend game, the team made only one personnel change to its starting lineup.
United, though, might end up making a few changes, after left back Marc Burch and holding midfielder Sam Cronin become available to the Loons after the team acquired them Friday from the Colorado Rapids.
While the lineup United used against Real Salt Lake — close to the one from the second half of the 2-2 draw at Colorado — has been the Loons’ most successful so far this season, United coach Adrian Heath said Friday the plan was to start Cronin in the defensive midfield with Collen Warner, leaving Ibson out of a spot. The same with Burch at left back, where he started for Colorado, kicking Justin Davis to the bench.
“I knew I had to put a show on out there today to give Adrian something to think about,” Davis said Saturday. “I think the speculation is that he’ll come in and take my spot, but I’m going to make it hard for Adrian. … Obviously, I’ve been there for years now. So I think it’s my spot to lose.”
Davis has played left back for United for many seasons dating back to the NASL days. And Heath is looking for that possessive streak to bring even better play out of his team.
“The one thing I do know about football is: The best motivation is losing your place,” Heath said. “You have to stand up, be counted. And by your actions and your performances, you keep your place, not a problem.”