Loons coach believes more wins, playoffs within reach
ST. PAUL—Minnesota United's locker room was brimming with confidence after a thrilling 4-3 win Wednesday, July 4, over Toronto at TCF Bank Stadium.
After his hat trick, Colombian playmaker Darwin Quintero had turned the Bluetooth speaker to Latino music. Loons teammates laughed and razzed Christian Ramirez for his fashion choice of denim overalls. Francisco Calvo and Miguel Ibarra refined their custom handshake.
In Quintero's postgame media scrum, backup goalkeeper Matt Lampson acted like a reporter when he jumped and asked, "Do you want to apologize to Clint Irwin?"
Quintero politely demurred on the chance to pile on Toronto's goalkeeper after Irwin's fruitless attempts to stop Quintero's three top-notch strikes.
"No? OK," Lampson said and walked off.
Their swagger was preceded in coach Adrian Heath's news conference. He said their attacking play for a stretch of the game was "as good as you will see in MLS."
After the first half of the 2018 season finished with 6-10-1 record on Wednesday, Heath added, "This is like a new start, a fresh start for the second half of the season," Heath said. "Let's see what we do. This team is capable of winning 13, 14 games in this league. I know it is."
In 2017, the Loons went 10-18-6. If they match their current pace, which is now outside the playoff picture, they would finish 12-20-2.
A few more wins and a couple of draws could mean a playoff berth during the Loons' second MLS season. Thirteen wins was good enough to make the Western Conference playoffs the last two seasons.
Calvo to sit
Calvo returned from the World Cup on Monday and played all 90 minutes against Toronto. But due to his yellow card in the 49th minute added to the previous cautions he has received this season, the defender and team captain will have to sit out Minnesota's game against Houston on Saturday.
"Fran seems to think the ball was out of play when it happened, so we will see," Heath said. "I'll have a look at it again."
Then Heath took exception to Quintero receiving a yellow card for "delaying the restart of play" for having teammate Christian Ramirez put a ballcap on his head after he completed a hat trick in the 57th minute.
"I'm not sure the rules were meant to be, somebody scores an incredible hat trick and gets a yellow card for celebrating," Heath said.
Quintero quickly removed the cap, and Ramirez said afterward that he tried to lobby the official to give him the yellow card instead.
Martin was well-received
After making international headlines by coming out as gay before Friday's 1-0 loss to Dallas, Collin Martin didn't play in that evening's game.
But in the 79th minute Wednesday, Martin received a standing ovation from some fans and a loud roar from others when he subbed into the game.
Martin, the only openly gay athlete in the five major sports, has now played in seven of Minnesota's 17 games this season.
Minnesota's eighth-minute goal put a quick end to a scoreless drought that dated back to June 23 and a spanned a total of 115 minutes. ... Heath said he put Woodbury's Brent Kallman in the middle of a new three-man back line to match up right-sided center back Michael Boxall's "extra mobility and defense in wide areas" against Toronto goal-scorer Sebastian Giovinco's preferred spot.
After Saturday's MLS game against the Dynamo, the Loons will host a friendly against Costa Rica club Saprissa on Wednesday at TCF Bank Stadium. Heath said it will be a great opportunity for reserves to get some much-needed game experience.