Minnesota United dropped under the nine-team playoff line and into 10th place in the Western Conference with Wednesday night's 4-3 collapse at LA Galaxy.
Leading 3-1 by halftime at Dignity Health Sports Park in Carson, Calif., the Loons (9-10-10) conceded three consecutive goals after star playmaking midfielder Emanuel Reynoso was subbed out at halftime injured.
The Loons are one point behind ninth-place Dallas for the final spot in MLS' new playoff format this season. They have five regular-season games remaining, three of them at home, starting Saturday night against first-place St. Louis City.
"We managed to throw a game away that we should have won," Loons coach Adrian Heath said afterward, subdued. "We can talk about reasons why."
Those reasons include what he called "stupid decisions," "schoolboy stuff" and "comical" goals conceded.
Included was left back Ethan Bristow's silly second yellow card that got him ejected in the 74th minute. Heath was none too pleased, either, when teammates DJ Taylor and Bongokuhle Hlongwane ran into each other because of a lack of communication.
The Loons led 3-1 after three unanswered first-half goals, one by striker Teemu Pukki for his fourth MLS goal and two by Hlongwane for his team-leading seventh and eighth MLS goals this season.
The Loons played the second half without Reynoso, whom Heath said left the game because of a thigh injury he picked up in last week's 1-0 loss to Sporting Kansas City.
"With it being 3-1, he said it was starting to stiffen up," Heath said. "I didn't want to risk it because I know what he's like. He would have stayed on for the whole 90 minutes. We have to look at the big picture as well. We have three huge home games coming up that probably will define our season."
Heath said Reynoso's absence didn't contribute to recently acquired English veteran Billy Sharp's hat trick for the Galaxy (8-11-9), providing goals in the 16th, 63rd and 71st minutes. He now has six goals in six MLS games since arriving in August.
His third goal tied the score at 3, three minutes before first-half substitute Bristow committed one of those "stupid decisions." By tugging on an opponent's jersey, Bristow earned a second yellow card and automatic ejection after he subbed into the game in the 36th minute for an injured Joseph Rosales.
That second yellow card left the Loons a man short for the final 16-plus minutes.
Galaxy midfielder Diego Fagundez scored the winning goal in the 82md minute with a sweeping one-touch, right-footed shot inside the 18-yard box.
The Loons have allowed two goals in the last 20 minutes five times this season. In four of those five games, they were leading.
"People not doing their job," Heath said. "A lot of times, I have to be honest, it's the same people involved in some of this stuff. We'll have to evaluate it all. Now is not the time.
"But moving forward, we can't keep doing this. We can't keep putting ourselves in great positions and coming away with nothing."
Heath was asked about his players' reaction after such a finish. No players did interviews after the game.
"Well, you can imagine what the dressing room is like," he said. "There's a lot of angry people in there and people saying one or two things. We've been in this position before where it's gone to the last game.
"If we win two or three at home, that will be more than enough to get into the playoffs. It's still in our hands. There are enough points to play for, but we can't keep doing the same stuff and expect different results."
The Star Tribune did not send the writer of this article to the game. This was written using a broadcast, interviews and other material.