With 44 years in pro soccer, Minnesota United coach Adrian Heath knows well what comes with an 0-4 start in a season that began aimed at a championship.
Pressure, particularly on the coach.
"Nobody envisions the start that we had, certainly not me," Heath said. "There was no indication in preseason that we were going to be in this position, but we are and the longer this goes, the more it builds.
"We've all been in it a long time before you come to play Major League Soccer, and we know sooner or later the pressure is going to keep building and building. To get rid of that, we need to win a game."
The only team in MLS that hasn't earned a point this season, the Loons play Vancouver (2-1-1) on Wednesday at Allianz Field in a game four days after they allowed three unanswered second-half goals in a 3-2 loss at Colorado.
"It's a difficult start, but it's part of life," Loons veteran defensive midfielder Ozzie Alonso said Tuesday in an interview conducted in Spanish by a team employee. "We are here, and we have to move on. … The message is clear: It's win or win. We know that tomorrow is a final for us."
Between games, Heath has reminded his players at training of what they've done well. They've been among the league leaders in shots — but not shots on target — in those first four games. Included was a first half on Saturday in which his team took a 2-0 lead and Heath called its play maybe its best since he was hired in 2017.
"We know we haven't started the way we want," Heath said. "There's no point in denying that, but there's also been an awful lot of positives when I look at things. It's not like every single game I get home, scratch my head and think we haven't got enough possession, we haven't dictated at times. … I look at the Colorado game and the first 45 minutes were as good as we've played."
And yet they've made defensive gaffes that have left them without a victory or a draw. They surrendered four goals after halftime in the season opener at Seattle, and those three in Saturday's second half.
"We're not going to win a lot of games conceding three, four goals a game," Heath said. "That's just the reality of the game that we play."
Other than Colorado's second goal Saturday, Heath hasn't held goalkeeper Dayne St. Clair responsible for the goals surrendered. But in a Tuesday video call with reporters, he sounded like a man contemplating a goalkeeper change, if perhaps for the sake of change itself. He praised veteran Tyler Miller's training and said, "We'll wait and see what we do tomorrow."
Starting center back Bakaye Dibassy is expected to miss his fifth consecutive game because of a thigh injury that became more serious than the minor injury Heath called it in preseason. He said he expects right back Romain Metanire to start after he came out of Saturday's game early holding his leg.
"Obviously, we miss his experience, but he's not available," Heath said, referring to Dibassy. "Let's get on with it. Let's not think about people who can't help us. It's down to the people who can."
The Loons also will play on for now without recently acquired attackers Adrien Hunou, from France's top division, and Argentine Franco Fragapane. Both are waiting for immigration paperwork to be completed. Heath is hopeful they will arrive in Minnesota yet this week.
They're also waiting for recently signed striker Ramon Abila to reach full fitness and full health.
In charge of both building and coaching the first team, Heath said it's unfair to judge him, his team and this season until all the pieces are in place.
"At the end of the day, it'd be very harsh to look at this overall group when it's not complete," he said. "When we have the right people in the right spots, then we'll have a look. But that has to come sooner than later because we can't keep on losing. I'm aware of that. I've been in this game a long time, and I know how it works."