Indication that change is in his midst, Minnesota United coach Adrian Heath awoke Sunday morning with his team tied for first place in the Western Conference after the regular season’s first two weeks.
His Loons missed the playoffs each of their first two MLS seasons — and allowed 71 goals and won just once away from TCF Bank Stadium last season.
Now United is 2-0 after its 3-0 victory Saturday at San Jose. It already has collected six points in a new season it starts with five consecutive road games before sparkly new Allianz Field opens.
“I know what it feels like now when you wake up every Sunday morning and you have a good night’s sleep and you feel great in the morning,” Heath said. “I much prefer this feeling to some of the stuff we had last year, I know that much.”
United scored its 100th goal in MLS play when star Darwin Quintero scored on a penalty kick for the first of three second-half goals in the 49th minute. Midfielder Miguel Ibarra followed with the second just three minutes later. The Loons ended the game’s scoring when midfielder Jan Gregus’ free kick in the 75th minute deflected off the shoulder of Earthquakes defender Harold Cummings for an own goal.
Meanwhile, United dodged two bona-fide chances by star Chris Wondolowski — searching for a goal that would tie him for Landon Donovan’s all-time MLS goal record — and recorded its first shutout since a 2-0 victory over Montreal last Memorial Day weekend.
“I’m sure there were a lot of people back home, doubters, who were thinking, ‘Can we sort it out on the road?’ ” Heath said after the game. “This isn’t the same group. They don’t carry the same negativity on the road that we’ve had in the past. I thought tonight some of our play was outstanding.”
It also is United’s first clean sheet on the road in its three MLS seasons.
That’s six goals and six points in the season’s first two games.
“I do have a lot more faith in this group than I have in the past to see things out,” Heath said. “There’s a lot of experience in the group. They’ve been through this before.”
United had four prime scoring chances that San Jose goalkeeper Daniel Vega denied in the first half.
“Conceivably, we should have been two or three up at halftime,” Heath said. “That was my only worry: Is it going to come back and haunt us that we’ve not taken the opportunities that we had?”
But Quintero did what he does, factoring into two of the Loons’ three goals despite being shadowed by San Jose’s unusual man-to-man marking system.
After his penalty kick goal, he and Ibarra combined on a counterattacking 80-yard run after a San Jose corner kick. Quintero pushed the ball ahead, and Ibarra finished it off after he shifted Quintero’s forward pass from his right to left foot and bent a shot around Vega inside the far post.
“He’s little; it’s hard to knock him off the ball,” Ibarra said of Quintero in a postgame FSN interview. “It was just about timing my run for the right moment.”
Heath repeatedly has said Ibarra is capable of scoring 10 goals this season. He now has nine more to go.
• Heath said defender Romain Metanire is “good” after he took a hit to the head when teammate and goalkeeper Vito Mannone punched away a ball late in the game.
• Mannone recorded his first MLS shutout. “We’re pleased with him,” Heath said. “That back five now is starting to take some shape.”
• Striker Angelo Rodriguez replaced starter Romario Ibarra in the 62nd minute to provide what Heath called a more physical player who controls the ball better with a 2-0 lead.
• Heath on denying Wondolowski a record-tying goal: “I said to him I’m glad it didn’t come today, but I hope it comes the next couple of weeks, because he certainly deserves it.”
• Heath praised midfielder Gregus and Ozzie Alonso. “I wouldn’t change them for anybody in the league,” he said.