In a lot of ways, how the Loons ended Sunday's match at the Seattle Sounders was truly indicative of Minnesota's inaugural season as a whole.
After taking an early lead, the Loons gave up the equalizer on a set piece slip, missed multiple opportunities to regain the lead and then hunkered down for most of the match in an effort to preserve the single coveted road point before giving up a penalty at the legitimate last minute. Jermaine Taylor's handball after a corner kick led to U.S. national team joint top scorer Clint Dempsey stepping up for the kick, and Loons' goalkeeper Bobby Shuttleworth was just a breath away from saving it.
Close, but not enough.
"I thought we were doing a good job seeing the ball out, seeing the game out. And then to give up a penalty on the last play of the game like that, it was crushing," Loons center-back Brent Kallman said. "I think we deserved more from the game.
"But how many times have we said that this year?"
The Loons remain at the bottom of the Western Conference at 6-14-4 and turn around to travel to the Chicago Fire, third in the league at 12-8-5, at 7:30 p.m. Saturday. With 10 matches left in the season, the Loons are quickly approaching too-little-too-late territory.
But these improved performances that don't manifest in points aren't total wastes.
"If we can compete the way we did tonight, I'll be really pleased," coach Adrian Heath said postmatch Sunday. "If we can show the same commitment and organization that we did tonight, we'll pick up a couple of wins between now and the end of the season."
Beyond this season, the outlook becomes even sunnier. Winger Ethan Finlay, in his Loons debut, scored his first goal since March 4, his former team the Columbus Crew's season opener. His addition, one of five recent acquisitions for the Loons, is working to bring what the new team has been lacking.
"Leadership," Finlay said. "This is a team that has struggled, obviously, this year. I think by bringing in some of the pieces they have throughout the season, they are looking to bring some guys in that have some experience, that have a voice in this locker room, and that are going to better this club on and off the field.''
Some players "have only been here for eight months themselves. So they are all kind of getting their feet wet, too. In a new place, new environment with some new coaching staff. Everything is still very fresh for everyone," Finlay said. "I hope to continue to bring good performances for the team and bring energy. I thought tonight we weathered that storm pretty well in the second half. I like to think I helped that, and I was a part of that.
"If we can make that contagious for the club, we will do just fine."