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Loons’ season on life support after 2-0 loss to San Jose

MNUFC went into Saturday’s match in California with an opportunity to clinch a playoff spot with a win and some help. That assistance came with Real Salt Lake’s draw with L.A. Galaxy late Saturday night, but Minnesota didn’t do its part of the equation.

MLS: Minnesota United FC at San Jose Earthquakes
Minnesota United midfielder Emanuel Reynoso (10) is fouled by San Jose Earthquakes forward Benji Kikanovic during the second half Saturday, Oct. 1, 2022, at PayPal Park. San Jose won the match 2-0.
Darren Yamashita / USA Today Sports
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ST. PAUL -- Despite a 2-0 loss to last-place San Jose on Saturday, Minnesota United is still alive for a spot in the MLS Cup Playoffs. But over the past few weeks, the Loons’ status has been downgraded to life support.

Minnesota (13-14-6) has managed only one of 18 available points across six games and their flat-lining to 46 points has put them on the verge of missing out on the seventh and final playoff spot.

MNUFC went into Saturday’s match in California with an opportunity to clinch a playoff spot with a win and some help. That assistance came with Real Salt Lake’s draw with L.A. Galaxy late Saturday night, but Minnesota didn’t do its part of the equation. As a result, the Loons’ dream of climbing into the top four and hosting a first-round playoff game — a club-wide preseason objective — appears dead.

With one game to play, the loss left the Loons in seventh place in the Western Conference with 45 points, one point in front of eighth-place Real Salt Lake and two points in front of ninth-place Vancouver.

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With nothing left to play for this season, San Jose (8-15-10) showed itself to be the better team at PayPal Park.

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“I think they wanted to win the game more than we did, and that showed with their attitude,” Loons manager Adrian Heath said. “And when you consider what was at stake, that’s a pretty difficult pill to swallow, to be honest.”

Heath questioned players’ physical desire to fight, and with what’s at stake, how can that be?

“I wish I knew,” Heath replied. “Maybe it’s the make-up of some of the people we’ve got. Maybe we have to look at that.”

In the 52nd minute, Minnesota midfielder Kervin Arriaga played the ball backward, Brent Kallman sent a long ball forward and Luis Amarilla turned the ball over in midfield. Then Michael Boxall gave away a free kick, and Shea Salinas’s set piece took a nasty deflection off Emanuel Reynoso and past Loons goaltender Dayne St. Clair to give San Jose a 1-0 lead.

About 20 minutes later, Benji Kikanovic beat Boxall on a run in the 71st minute and slotted a shot past St. Clair to make it 2-0.

“I’m not sure where to pinpoint where (letdowns) have been exactly,” St. Clair said when asked about the last few weeks. “But I think we just need to believe in ourselves. I feel like sometimes we concede that first goal, and a lot of times it’s been a (expletive) goal like tonight. I just think we need to do a better job of regrouping and trusting in each other to know that we can battle and go and get results.”

Before either of those goals, Loons winger Mender Garcia had a scoring chance at the far post but couldn’t get a shot on frame. It proved to be a key opportunity lost because any chance was hard to come by for Minnesota.

San Jose outshot Minnesota 6-2, with the Loons’ St. Clair making a sprawling save on Paul Marie’s shot in the eighth minute.

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Minnesota’s Arriaga received a yellow card in the 10th minute and will be suspended due to yellow-card accumulation for the Decision Day game against Vancouver at Allianz Field on Oct. 9. The Loons have been plagued by these suspensions this season; Arriaga has become the 10th player to miss a game this way this season.

Minnesota is now down to one last chance to rejuvenate themselves and earn a spot in the playoffs.

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