The consequences of the depleted roster Minnesota United was forced to use in a 0-0 draw with the Houston Dynamo on Wednesday night manifested themselves in less than 10 minutes.
Houston had a second clean opportunity at a goal — this one an uncontested header by Andrew Wenger — early in the contest at TCF Bank Stadium. Although the ball missed the goal, the moment caused United goalie Bobby Shuttleworth to yell and press his hands from his chest to near his hips. He was telling his teammates, it appeared, to calm down.
United, dealing with six players out because of injuries and three on national team duty, had only five players on its bench. The team’s two new international acquisitions, winger Sam Nicholson and defender Michael Boxall, are still waiting for visa and passport paperwork to be finalized before they can play.
So United played Brent Kallman — who received a fifth yellow card of the season — for the first time since June 24, when he went out because of a MCL sprain. Forward Bashkim Kadrii made his first start since April 8, after he scored the first goal of his United career in a friendly against Atlas FC on July 15.
All of that resulted in United’s flat performance. The Loons looked lacking in chemistry. They mustered a disappointing draw out of a game that seemed primed for a chance at three points that could have kick-started a four-game homestand and playoff push.
“It just seems we get somebody back, and somebody else goes down,” coach Adrian Heath said. “It’s not helping with the consistency of the team.”
The latest lost Loon: defender Joseph Greenspan, who Heath said broke his nose in a first-half collision and might have received his third concussion of the season.
United shot once in the first half, compared to Houston’s 13, and the Loons’ opponent owned 62.2 percent of the first-half possession.
The final numbers were a bit better for United: Houston outshot the Loons 19-4 overall, but United controlled second-half possession.
United’s best chance to score was Kevin Molino’s shot near the goal that a defender corralled after the midfielder broke away from a few defenders in the 62nd minute.
The Loons, playing in their first MLS game since a July 4 loss to the Columbus Crew, didn’t give the crowd of 19,456 much reason to cheer.
“The thing with a break is it can make you or break you,” said Molino, who hasn’t scored since May 13.
What makes this tie even more frustrating for United: The Dynamo did not have some of its best players, including Erick Torres and Alberth Elis, who were gone on national team duty. They’ve combined for 18 goals this season.
Houston, third in the Western Conference standings, came into the contest winless through nine road games. And the Loons, who have also been far better at home, tied Houston earlier this season in Texas.
But with a thin roster that only got thinner after losing Greenspan, an ideal opponent wasn’t enough. The outlook only became bleaker for United, which plays the New York Red Bulls on Saturday.
“I’m always positive at home,” Heath said. “But after the first half, you think if we can come out with anything, than we’ll be all right.”