Water breaks are intended to be refreshing, but Minnesota United took that brief hydration interlude at the 30th minute of Saturday night’s steamy 90-degree match fairly literally.
That might have had more to do with coach Adrian Heath’s choice words, though, than the H2O.
“There were a few words at the water break and then a lot more at halftime,” Heath said. “I thought the first 25 minutes was as bad as we’ve played all season. I thought we were lackluster, lack of energy, lack of desire, whatever adjectives you are to use, I thought we were probably that.
“I’m not sure it was words of wisdom,” Heath said of his pep talk. “There were a few words you probably wouldn’t wish to repeat.”
Well, whatever the speech, it certainly worked. The Loons defeated the Montreal Impact 2-0 off two second-half goals at TCF Bank Stadium in front of an announced crowd of 21,331.
United is now 5-7-1 on the season while floundering Montreal fell to 3-10.
The Loons also ended the past six games, of which five were at home, with a 3-2-1 record, a stretch that Heath said would be definitive of the Loons’ season so far. The three points moved United to within a point of MLS playoff contention, eighth of 12 teams in Western conference.
Montreal had several scoring chances that never panned out and actually outshot the Loons 6-2 in the first 30 minutes. But after some fluids, both United playmaker Darwin Quintero and winger Alexi Gomez rued near-misses in the last five minutes of the first half. Quintero shot wide and Gomez watched Montreal goalkeeper Evan Bush save his volley one-handed.
That momentum only continued after halftime, and striker Christian Ramirez scored in the 52nd minute. Midfielder Ibson actually picked off a Montreal pass in the midfield and threaded it to Ramirez in the box, whose shot trickled off Bush and into the net.
About six minutes later, winger Miguel Ibarra scored, completing the Superman-Batman scoring tandem, as per the best friends’ nicknames. Ibarra beat Montreal left back Daniel Lovitz at the top of the box and fired off a distance strike right to the top corner.
“We know other teams got results that they needed, so we obviously needed to get three points here at home,” Ibarra said. “And against Montreal, we knew we were more than capable of doing it against them because we know they are struggling. So us getting these three points was big for us, especially now heading back to KC. Playing at Kansas City is going to be a good and a hard-fought game.”
United is carrying this second clean sheet of the season — thanks to goalkeeper Bobby Shuttleworth’s four saves — into its final two games before a brief leaguewide break for the World Cup. The team will travel to Sporting Kansas City next Sunday and then go straight from there to FC Cincinnati for a June 6 U.S. Open Cup match. The Loons won’t play again in MLS until June 23.
But the players shouldn’t kick back much during that downtime, or Heath will likely have something to say — and maybe somewhere to kick himself — once they return to training.
“The gaffer really laid into us at halftime, gave us the kick up the bum,” right back Tyrone Mears said. “And I think you saw the difference second half.”