Minnesota United is coming off a three-game winning streak, including winning four of its past five games. But now it goes on the road for six of its next seven games, including five consecutive matches from Aug. 11 to Sept. 15.
That’s not the rosiest outlook for the Loons, who have only one victory on the road this year, in the second game of the season.
“Well, let’s win one first on the road before we get to three,” coach Adrian Heath said. “As I’ve said on numerous occasions, if we want to take this toward the end of the season, keep the season alive as late as possible, we have to start to pick up some points away from home.”
The Loons (9-11-1) start this road trip at 9 p.m. Saturday against the Vancouver Whitecaps. They play at home again against the Seattle Sounders on Aug. 4 but then don’t return to play at TCF Bank Stadium until Sept. 22 against the Portland Timbers.
Heath gave his players two days off after their 5-1 victory Sunday against LAFC, which capped a three-game, nine-day homestand with the maximum nine points. Counting U.S. Open Cup and friendly games, United has played nine matches in 35 days, and Heath said pretty much every player is carrying some sort of small injury.
But striker Christian Ramirez said spirits are high in the home locker room, which hopefully will carry over to the visitors’ one.
“We’re coming together, and that’s going to be crucial coming up on this schedule that we have,” Ramirez said. “It’s going to be a tough seven, six games coming up.”
Winger Miguel Ibarra said every player on the team knows the Loons are “flying right now.”
“We know there has been talk about how we’re not the same team when we play away, so now we just have to show it,” Ibarra said. “Keep doing what we’re doing. Pretend like it’s a home game again. I mean, we want to go to the playoffs. We’ve got to win away games.”
The Loons made up ground in the standings during this homestand, jumping from ninth to seventh in the Western Conference. They sit just two points out of playoff contention and three points from fourth place. But of United’s 28 points this year, only three have come from its nine away games.
Team captain Francisco Calvo, though, said the Loons should feel right at home in Vancouver at BC Place, a stadium that has similar capacity and turf to its home feld.
“If we get the nine points this week, our confidence is going to get high. And the teams are going be careful now to play against us,” Calvo said, adding it has been the team’s goal to roll this solid home performance into away games. “I don’t think we have to change anything. Anything.”