At around the 70th minute of Minnesota United’s match Saturday, a chant of “Come on you Loons” and “M-N-U-F-C” reverberated throughout TCF Bank Stadium.
It was possibly the loudest the stadium has been in the Loons’ tenure.
United reversed an 0-3-2 skid in MLS play — including a more than three-match, 358-minute scoring drought — with a heartfelt 4-0 shutout of league bottom-dweller D.C. United on Saturday in front of an announced 20,146, the second consecutive 20,000-plus crowd.
“I’m pleased for the players, and I’m pleased for the supporters,” coach Adrian Heath said. “They’ve been fantastic, and they were again tonight, 20,000 people. And, you know, we haven’t been winning every week. They’re not coming to watch winning football. They come in to get behind the team, and they can see the work that we’re doing.”
United (6-12-4) entered the match as the bottom team in the West while D.C. (5-14-3) was last in the East. Before this match, the Loons’ most recent previous score in the league was from the ninth minute of a June 29 loss at New York City FC.
Forward Christian Ramirez, of course, was the bookend of the dry spell, scoring that New York goal as well as the seventh-minute strike against D.C. Midfielder Kevin Molino fed Ramirez a great ball over the top of D.C.’s defense, and the striker didn’t miss the opportunity to net his 11th goal this season.
Ramirez said what made the difference in this match after such a disappointing run was actually having nearly a full roster ready and available. The team has fielded a short bench in several recent matches as injuries and national team call-ups mounted.
“This feels nice to have everybody back,” Ramirez said. “We’re growing each game where we have full bodies, and I think that’s one of the biggest things that Adrian said to us, it’s nice to have all these faces back here. Because we know we can play some good soccer. We play a really attractive style when we have everybody back.”
Rookie forward Abu Danladi, making his return to the starting lineup after an injury, doubled the score in the 40th minute, powering past D.C. goalkeeper Bill Hamid. Molino slid Danladi the assist on his third goal of the year, making this the midfielder’s first multiple-assist match since April 1.
Ramirez left the match shortly after Danladi’s goal as a precautionary measure for a hamstring tweak, and midfielder Miguel Ibarra replaced him. That was bad news for D.C., as midfielder Jared Jeffrey scored an own goal after an Ibarra cross in the 58th minute, and Ibarra then trickled in a stoppage time goal, with a helpful bump from the goalpost.
Despite this being United’s biggest victory of the season and fifth shutout, Heath said he thought the score line “flattered” his team, as there was a 10-minute spell in the first half and 15-minute one in the second when the Loons flailed.
“We took too many chances, didn’t play what the game gave us, tried to create too much, didn’t want to clear our lines, didn’t want to put a foot through it,” Heath said. “But that would be nitpicking.
“But if we’re going to get better, that’s what we have to do.”