The start to Minnesota United’s 2021 season was anything but ideal.
The Loons started their season with a 4-0 loss at Seattle Sounders, a 1-2 loss to Real Salt Lake, a 0-1 loss to Austin FC and a 2-3 loss to Colorado Rapids. In the blink of an eye, the team had zero points through four matches.
After an 0-0-4 start to the season, it felt like all hope was lost. Since 1999, only two teams had reached the MLS Cup Playoffs after losing their first four games, NYCFC and Inter Miami, both in 2020 thanks to the expanded playoff field that season.
Following Minnesota United’s 3-3 tie with LA Galaxy on Decision Day, that number is now three, as MNUFC are playoff-bound for a third consecutive season.
After a historic turnaround, the Loons are 5th in the Western Conference with a playoff match at Portland Timbers on the horizon. Now, the team’s focus turns to postseason play.
"It’s been a rollercoaster of a season,” forward Robin Lod said.
“We started really bad then we had really good games in the middle of the summer and then these last few games we have been struggling a little bit, but we have been getting the points that we needed for the playoffs and now we can just reset ourselves and focus on the playoffs.”
Minnesota’s slow start to the season was quickly negated by a seven-match unbeaten streak that followed the four season-opening losses. That push gave the team life, but its tumultuous start left the team with little margin for error for the rest of the campaign.
“Well it puts us behind the eight ball a little bit, doesn’t it? We didn’t give ourselves much room for error,” head coach Adrian Heath said.
“I think, if I’m right, only two teams have ever done it from that type of start, so it speaks volumes for the players and the staff, how hard everyone’s worked.”
Now officially playoff-bound for the third time in the franchise’s fifth MLS season, the Loons are ready to compete in the postseason and look to bring the MLS Cup to the Land of 10,000 Lakes.
With a trip to Portland up next, the team is confident in its ability to keep their championship aspirations alive.
“I feel like the matchup is just playing well for us. There is nothing to get scared about them,” Lod said. "I have really good confidence about our team and what we are capable of doing. If we are playing close to the best we can, I feel like we have a good chance against any of the teams.”