Adrian Heath’s detractors often focus on what they see as the Minnesota United manager’s lack of tactical adjustments when games shift in second halves and his suspect substitution patterns.

On Twitter, the critics galvanize around #HeathOut.

That crowd had been quieted over most of the previous two seasons. In 2019, it was the Loons’ run to the U.S. Open Cup final and their debut appearance in the MLS Cup Playoffs later that fall. They backed it up in 2020 by advancing to the MLS is Back Tournament semifinal last summer and the Western Conference final come winter.

Heath’s team had earned a result or a draw in 70% of matches across 2019-20 seasons combined, but the fault-finders were back over how the Loons lost to the Sounders in the West final.

With United mired at 0-4 this spring, the naysayers are back. The Loons remain the only MLS club without a point through four weeks. With 10 goals allowed — tied for most in MLS — it’s a brutal start for a side built to win now, the fourth-oldest team in the league (28.2 years old).

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United’s 3-2 away defeat to Colorado on Saturday stung more because the Loons took a 2-0 first-half lead. But Colorado got threatening in front of goal many times before eventually breaking through. On each goal, the home side had roughly two, even three minutes of possession, poking and prodding with scoring chances before they succeeded.

“I thought we were outstanding in the first half,” Heath said. “And then all the things we were good at in the first half, we weren’t in the second. Our ball retention was really poor. Our decision-making was poor. And our general defending of the penalty area was poor, as well.”

A subset of fans were particularly irked by Heath’s comments on Saturday’s substitution of center back Brent Kallman for vital midfielder Emanuel Reynoso. The game was still tied at 2-2 in the 80th minute when the defense-minded change was made.

“At that stage, I thought we were going to lose the game, as it proved (we) did,” Heath explained. “We wanted to get another defender on because they were putting a lot of balls in our box. I thought an extra body in there might help us, but it wasn’t to be.”

As the Rapids’ sustained attacks showed, United needed to do a better job of keeping the ball out of danger zones. After Chase Gasper committed a hard foul and was given a yellow card, it allowed the Rapids a free kick in an advanced spot, and the Loons’ back line of three center backs wasn’t enough to keep Danny Wilson’s header from being the game-winner.

Despite the backward start, less than 12% of the season is gone, and two attackers —designated player Adrien Hunou and Franco Fragapane — are expected to arrive soon. Heath has certainly missed starting center back Bakaye Dibassy, out for all four games this season. And while owner Bill McGuire, a diehard soccer observer, doesn’t stomach losing well, he is very close with Heath.

But history is stacked against the Loons this season. Only four clubs in MLS history have started 0-4 and made the MLS Cup Playoffs — and three of those come with asterisks.

D.C. United (1996) and Tampa Bay Mutiny (1999) had draws that were turned into losses given the funky penalty-kick shootout rules the league had pre-2000. In 2020, expansion side Inter Miami started 0-5 but were gifted a playoff spot in an expanded 10-team field. This year’s playoff field is down to seven in each conference. New York City F, 0-4 last season, recovered to finish fifth in the East.

The Loons have weathered four-game losing streaks before: two in the dreadful 11-20-3 season in 2018, one in the 9-5-7 campaign a year ago. After being bounced by Heath’s old club, Orlando City, in the MLS is Back Tournament semifinal last August, the Loons then lost three straight games in the restarted regular season.

Heath admitted his team had grown “anxious” going into the Real Salt Lake game in St. Paul on Sept. 6, but they bounced back from a scoreless first half to win 4-0.

“It was a huge game for us,” Heath said in that postgame news conference. “I was aware of that, because the more (the poor form) carries on, the more people start jumping on the bandwagon. I know what it is. I know what my job is.”

Last year’s outfit went on to lose only two of the remaining 13 games before the playoffs, and a similar 180-degree pivot is needed now.

“Everybody here wants to win,” midfielder Jan Gregus said. “And the expectations we had before the season, now it’s completely opposite. We are last.”

The Loons won’t have any time to dwell on their poor form, with Vancouver (2-1-1) coming to Allianz Field on Wednesday, followed by FC Dallas (1-1-2) on Saturday. That will make it three games in eight days, and they might have to play without right back Romain Metanire, who left the Colorado game with an apparent left leg injury.

“It’s a huge game for us on Wednesday,” Heath said in Colorado. “If we’re not aware of it, we should be. We’re at this stage now where we’ve got to start winning some games and getting some points on the board.”

Gregus was more direct. “We have to win the next game and then win and win and win,” he said. “We have to look in front of ourselves, and right now we are not even in position to look for the playoffs with these kinds of performances.”