The math is intimidating for Minnesota United.
To host an MLS Cup playoff game at home at Allianz Field in November, the seventh-placed Loons must close an eight-point gap over fourth-placed Portland. (The second, third and four seeds of the Western Conference host the first round playoffs, while the first place gets a pass.)
Minnesota still have seven regular season games to play, while the Timbers, Real Salt Lake (5th) and LA Galaxy (6th) each have six games to play. MNUFC (10-9-8, 38 points) will make up that difference when third-placed Colorado heads to Allianz Field for a kickoff Sunday at 3 p.m.
So, is it really possible to host a third straight playoff game at home?
“Sure. Win seven games,” United owner Bill McGuire said in an interview on Tuesday, the day his club received the 2022 MLS All-Star Game.
Sitting across the table at the stadium suite was MLS commissioner Don Garber, who responded, “Easy, peasy, lemon, squeezy.”
Both the marshal and the owner know how difficult it is to ride a race like this. This is the type of pace that would be out of left field for this Loons team, which had to score goals in 2021. It’s the type of streak that would set an MNUFC record, but not entirely different from the eight. unbeaten matches. running (4-0-4) the Loons followed suit at the end of the 2020 season.
With the Loons on the verge of the playoff image, just getting into this stage of the season is the overarching goal. Three away teams are within five points of Minnesota. If it goes south and the MNUFC misses the playoffs all together, it could become, well, “stressed out, depressed, lemon peel.”
According to the calculation of director of football Manny Lagos, the Loons’ road to a home playoff game centers on the old adage: three points with home wins and one point with away draws. If Minnesota does this with four home and three away games to end the year, they would average 2.14 points per game over the period, which would be more than a half point over. their current rate of 1.41.
Manager Adrian Heath has said that for all of this to count in a month’s time, Minnesota must beat the Rapids on Sunday.
“Within the confines of my office we’ve been through all kinds of contingencies that we think teams are going to have,” Heath said on Friday. “For the players, they just have to win the next game. Don’t focus too much on what happens next.
Like a voodoo doll, the Rapids have stuck him painfully in Minnesota this season. Minnesota were desperate to come out of a 0-3 start to the season and took a 2-0 lead over Colorado on May 8, but allowed three goals in the final 33 minutes. On July 7, Minnesota came out flat and got smoked 2-0 on the road.
The club points to these matches among the worst of the season.
The Rapids were on a 12-game unbeaten streak (6-0-6) before a 3-0 loss to Seattle last Sunday, and Heath put Colorado coach Robin Fraser behind New England’s Bruce Arena for the “manager of the year” this season.
The Loons have three starters (center-back Michael Boxall, leading scorer Robin Lod and right-back Romain Métanire) on international duty, while the Rapids midfielder could be a place to exploit with two key players gone ( Mark Anthony-Kaye and Kellyn Acosta).
In the Loons’ last seven games, six are against playoff teams, four with playoff spots. They will play five games over a 16-day period by the end of October.
Three points up for grabs against last-place expansion team Austin FC next Saturday looks like a good opportunity to make up for the looming challenge for team Philadelphia, third in the Eastern Conference, who will travel to St. Paul on October 20.
LA Galaxy coach Greg Vanney mentioned the higher stakes this time of year following a loss to MMUFC in mid-September, a comment Heath referred to on Friday.
“It’s like you feel like it’s more like the playoffs,” Heath said. “Games mean so much more. … I think the gravity of losing a game now and someone behind you wins and then you watch everyone’s games, it’s almost like we’re in playoff mode now. This is how we have to approach all games. ”
REMAINING TIME FOR PARDONS
Saturday – Colorado Rapids, 48 points
October 16 – Austin FC, 25
October 20 – Philadelphia Union, 42
October 23 – Los Angeles FC, 34
October 27 – Vancouver Whitecaps, 37
October 31 – Sporting Kansas City, 52
November 7 – Los Angeles Galaxy, 39