With Minnesota United’s 1-1 draw with Real Salt Lake on Saturday, the Loons have gathered a nice haul of seven points out of nine available across the past three games.

That 2.3 points per game average would put them at or near the top of the Western Conference table, but after not earning a single point in four losses to start 2021, Minnesota’s seven-point total through seven games keeps them near the bottom of the table through 20 percent of the MLS season.

Over five recent seasons from 2015-19, the seventh-place squad in the West, which will take the last MLS Cup playoff spot this season, had averaged 46.6 points across a 34-game season. This means the Loons must average roughly 1.5 points per game in the final 27 games to reach that benchmark and put themselves in a position to make a third straight playoff appearance.

Going into the international break before its next game on June 19, Minnesota can feel better about its recent form. But there will be very few opportunities for any other slip-ups the rest of the way.

Here are four takeaways from Saturday’s game in Utah:

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Miller levels up

The Loons trailed 1-0 when goalkeeper Tyler Miller kept Minnesota in the game with a diving save to deny RSL’s Justin Meram in the 75th minute.

“Save of the week right there,” tweeted former RSL goalkeeper Nick Rimando, who is MLS’ all-time leader in saves and shutouts. Miller responded, “Just taking notes from (the greatest of all time).”

Miller made four saves but none bigger than that punch; it created an opportunity for Loons winger Niko Hansen to equalize three minutes later.

“Top-drawer saves, but he’s a top-drawer goalkeeper, and we have to expect him to make them saves,” coach Adrian Heath said. “That’s why he’s so highly thought of here.”

Hansen opens up

After Niko Hansen scored his first goal in his first game for Minnesota, the sixth-year player acquired from Houston in the offseason shared some of the struggles he had with a thigh injury that sidelined him for the first six games this season.

Hansen said he has been working with a sports psychologist over the last two months. “I’ve had some previous injury depression and things like that, and this is something I don’t mind talking about,” Hansen said. “Just to get myself ready to go again and not come in and be down on myself. You could see it as a setback. I talk about gratitude.”

In Minnesota’s four preseason games, Hansen tied for the team lead with four goals, so his absence has led to Hassani Dotson playing out of position on the left flank.

But with Hansen back, Heath said the Loons’ condensed schedule later this summer will likely mean more opportunities for him. “He’s quick, he’s direct, got a really good turn of pace, cuts in, is a decent finisher,” Heath said. “He showed that in preseason.”

Dibassy steps in

The Loons have an impressive 6-2-6 record when center back Bakaye Dibassy starts for Minnesota. “Big difference,” Heath said of having their Frenchman in the middle of the back line.

Dibassy was out for the first six games with a left thigh injury and returned to win 65 percent of his duels (11 of 17) and had six interceptions, according to wyscout.

But Dibassy was part of the breakdowns on RSL’s goal in the first half. Salt Lake played a free kick short to Aaron Herrera, who then crossed the ball in to Damir Kreilach, who wasn’t denied by Dibassy and Chase Gasper. Miller didn’t have much of a chance to make a save.

“The first rule of any defending: You don’t turn off, you don’t turn your back to the game,” Heath said. “It was a disappointing start for us, for sure.”

Hunou's debut

Saturday’s game was looked at like a first step for new Designated Player Adrien Hunou and not the finished product.

The French center forward had three shots but none on target against RSL, and he subbed out after 65 minutes. He played sparingly, fewer than 200 minutes with previous club Rennes in 2021, and his fitness and form is a work in progress.

“He will be a lot better for that,” Heath said about Hunou’s debut. “He will get sharper, and he will get his legs back under him over the next couple of weeks. And we can start to do some serious conditioning, nice little touches, nice little link-up play. But it’s obviously still very very early for the guy.”