Minnesota United’s first season in MLS was an up-and-down one to say the least. From the abysmal start, to some wins against the big teams, it was a season of firsts for the Loons.
On the whole, Minnesota were not expected to perform well in their first season in MLS. After their added expansion from the NASL, and they did not start the season well at all. In their first four games, Adrian Heath’s side shipped 18 goals, including the big ‘rivalry’ against the other expansion side, Atlanta United.
After a 5-1 defeat in Portland, Minnesota’s first home game came against their expansion brothers, and it was live on Sky Sports. The game was played in the snow, and Josef Martinez scored the first hat-trick of the 2017 MLS season for Atlanta.
The Loons eventually lost the game 6-1, making it two defeats from two, having conceded eleven already. Minnesota’s first point in the top flight came in the third game of the season, and it came on the road. Despite going down to ten men in Colorado, they held on for a 2-2 draw with Kevin Molino and Christian Ramirez scoring the goals, both now having two goals on the year.
However, it then got worse, with another resounding defeat way from home. New England were the victors this time, with a 5-2 win. This made it one point from twelve, with 18 goals conceded in just four games.
The first win came in game number five, a 4-2 scoreline over Real Salt Lake. Molino and Ramirez were on the scoresheet again, with the American scoring twice. Johan Venegas got his first goal of the season in scoring the fourth goal for the Loons.
Minnesota then got two more wins over the next four games, losing just the one. A 1-0 win over the Rapids, thanks to Miguel Ibarra’s 72nd minute strike. Two weeks later, Abu Danladi got his first of the season. The #1 SuperDraft pick scored the opener in a 2-0 win over Sporting KC. Strike partner Christian Ramirez got the second on the day, with another win coming against Orlando City at the end of May.
Towards the end of the season, the Loons won four and drew two in an eight game spell, which ultimately lifted them up to 9th in the Western Conference. It started on August 26th with a 2-1 away win in Chicago. Abu Danladi scored two first-half goals to give the Loons the win, before a 1-1 draw at home to Philadelphia.
After a road defeat in Vancouver, Minnesota then went to Montreal and won 3-2, before comprehensively beating FC Dallas 4-1. Christian Ramirez and Kevin Molino scored in both games, with Abu Danladi grabbing the winner in Montreal. Miguel Ibarra and Ethan Finlay scored against Dallas.
Another defeat came in Houston, before the big rematch in Atlanta. The Loons exacted revenge thanks to two stoppage-time goals. Christian Ramirez equalised on the ninety minute mark, before Kevin Molino scored the winner six minutes into time added on.
It was not all good for Minnesota in their first MLS season, including that start of just a point in their opening four games.
There was also another run of four defeats in five in May and June. Road defeats in Toronto, Kansas City and Salt Lake City sandwiched a home defeat to LA Galaxy, who eventually finished up bottom of the Western.
Christian Ramirez scored own goals in both the Toronto and Galaxy defeats, with the Loons then being shut out by Sporting KC and Real Salt Lake. The RSL defeat came off the back of a late Yura Movsisyan goal, before a win against Portland.
However, after the win against the Timbers, it was another five games without a win, including defeats against both New York sides, conceding three in each. In between those was a home defeat to the Crew, and draws against Vancouver and Houston.
The season ended badly, as well, with two defeats, and another to the LA Galaxy. Romain Alessandrini scored twice for the hosts on the day, before San Jose also beat Minnesota, with the Quakes securing a playoff place with victory on the final day.
Looking forward to next season then, will Minnesota make the playoffs? Several players have already departed, including defenders Joseph Greenspan and Justin Davis, and midfielders Ismaila Jome and Bernardo Anor. Jose Leiton is still on loan at the club, having joined from Club Sport Herediano in August, while Harrison Heath has signed from Atlanta, to play under his father.
Minnesota have a chance at making the playoffs in 2018, as long as the core group of players stay fit and healthy, and with Abu Danladi growing into his role, alongside the likes of Christian Ramirez and Kevin Molino going forward.