ST. PAUL -- Adrian Heath had a chance to pat himself on the back on national TV over Minnesota United’s accomplishments in 2019.

The Loons head coach sat on ESPN’s TV set wearing a heavily starched, open-collar white dress shirt and a slate gray suit jacket with the club’s winged crest stitched into its pocket. Los Angeles FC’s Banc of California Stadium served as the eye-catching backdrop.

It was all prim and proper, bright and positive as ESPN host Adrian Healey tossed Heath an opening softball on a “tremendous first appearance in the playoffs.”

“The crazy thing is the disappointment in losing to the Galaxy,” Heath responded.

Multiple off-camera “hmm” responses came from Healey and commentators Alejandro Moreno and Shaka Hislop.

Heath could have steered the conversation toward United’s accomplishments: one loss in 17 regular-season games at Allianz Field, a surprise run to the U.S. Open Cup final in August and the third-year franchise’s first MLS Cup playoff berth in October.

But no.

“When you compare the two clubs and what (Los Angeles Galaxy) spent, et cetera, I was so disappointed to get knocked out because you look at the reaction of the supporters to get in the playoffs and then we actually, we should have won the game,” Heath said.

This response nearly three months after that 2-1 loss still serves as motivation within the Loons organization going into their 2020 season opener against the Portland Timbers at Providence Park at 6:30 p.m. Sunday, March 1.

“No, I haven’t moved on,” said Loons’ second-year left back Chase Gasper. “It is fueling the season because I think that it was such a sickening feeling after — when you replay the game in your head and you fully digest it. We were so much better.”

Minnesota was the only MLS home team to lose a first-round playoff game last fall. They did so despite having more possession, better passing accuracy, more total shots and better scoring opportunities than the Galaxy.

Like so much of Minnesota’s last two-plus months in 2019, they couldn’t close the deal with actual goals. United scored only 12 times in its final 12 games last season, including a 2-1 loss to Atlanta United in the Open Cup final.

To address that this offseason, the Loons bought out the contract of underproducing striker Angelo Rodriguez, whose last act in Minnesota included a glaringly off-target header against the Galaxy.

Minnesota also acquired Luis Amarilla, who led Ecuador’s top league with 19 goals last season. At his opening press conference this month, he promised a whopping 25 goals in Minnesota. Considering last year’s leading scorer was Darwin Quintero with 10, the Loons will likely gladly take 15 goals from Amarillo this season.

Minnesota jettisoned Quintero in a trade to Houston but have yet to replace him as the central attacking midfielder. While they are pursuing Emanuel Reynoso in Argentina, the Loons will likely start nine of the 10 field players that opened the Galaxy game, including Kevin Molino as the central attacking mid.

Against L.A. last fall, new winger Robin Lod also missed a prime chance in front of goal early in the playoff game, his shot sailing high over the crossbar. When this moment was bought up at the start of preseason camp in Blaine, he said, “Yeah, thanks for reminding me.”

But Lod never forgot the overall fallout.

“The few days after the game, you feel disappointed in yourself and letting the team down,” he said. “It’s hard to get sleep. But as I said, I just have to go through it and take it as a motivator to get better this season.”

Midfielder Jan Gregus scored in the 87th minute to cut L.A.’s lead to 2-1 and give Minnesota a lifeline, but in the end it just made the many attacking miscues more gnawing.

Gregus, a Slovakian Designated Player who uses mixed martial arts and boxing in offseason workouts, was asked if he used that playoff loss for an extra pop in his punches.

“It’s not good for you personally and for the team to carry it with yourself too much,” he said. “But on the other hand, you can use it in other battles, so you have more energy and power.”

Winger Ethan Finlay backtracked to the regular-season finale, where he failed to convert a great scoring opportunity in a 1-0 road loss to the Seattle Sounders. “It’s something that I’ve thought about most of the offseason and the difference that my opportunity could have had,” he said.

If Minnesota had beaten or tied Seattle that day, the Loons’ would have secured the second seed, not the fourth, and avoided the dangers of a Galaxy lineup that included heavyweights Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Cristian Pavon, Sebastian Lleget and Jonathan Dos Santos. Lleget and Dos Santos each scored.

Soon after the Galaxy loss, roughly 10 Minnesota players commiserated over beers at one of their condos in Minneapolis.

“A lot about the game. A lot about the season. It just takes a while to digest,” defender Michael Boxall said. “It’s what we could have done better, what are we happy with and just hopes for the next year.”

Center back Ike Opara was one of the few players who said the loss doesn’t linger. “A one-game off,” the 2019 MLS defender of the year said. “Things happen. We were unlucky.”

“No, I haven’t moved on,” said Loons’ second-year left back Chase Gasper. “It is fueling the season because I think that it was such a sickening feeling after — when you replay the game in your head and you fully digest it. We were so much better.”

Minnesota was the only MLS home team to lose a first-round playoff game last fall. They did so despite having more possession, better passing accuracy, more total shots and better scoring opportunities than the Galaxy.

Like so much of Minnesota’s last two-plus months in 2019, they couldn’t close the deal with actual goals. United scored only 12 times in its final 12 games last season, including a 2-1 loss to Atlanta United in the Open Cup final.

To address that this offseason, the Loons bought out the contract of underproducing striker Angelo Rodriguez, whose last act in Minnesota included a glaringly off-target header against the Galaxy.

Minnesota also acquired Luis Amarilla, who led Ecuador’s top league with 19 goals last season. At his opening press conference this month, he promised a whopping 25 goals in Minnesota. Considering last year’s leading scorer was Darwin Quintero with 10, the Loons will likely gladly take 15 goals from Amarillo this season.

Minnesota jettisoned Quintero in a trade to Houston but have yet to replace him as the central attacking midfielder. While they are pursuing Emanuel Reynoso in Argentina, the Loons will likely start nine of the 10 field players that opened the Galaxy game, including Kevin Molino as the central attacking mid.

Against L.A. last fall, new winger Robin Lod also missed a prime chance in front of goal early in the playoff game, his shot sailing high over the crossbar. When this moment was bought up at the start of preseason camp in Blaine, he said, “Yeah, thanks for reminding me.”

But Lod never forgot the overall fallout.

“The few days after the game, you feel disappointed in yourself and letting the team down,” he said. “It’s hard to get sleep. But as I said, I just have to go through it and take it as a motivator to get better this season.”

Midfielder Jan Gregus scored in the 87th minute to cut L.A.’s lead to 2-1 and give Minnesota a lifeline, but in the end it just made the many attacking miscues more gnawing.

Gregus, a Slovakian Designated Player who uses mixed martial arts and boxing in offseason workouts, was asked if he used that playoff loss for an extra pop in his punches.

“It’s not good for you personally and for the team to carry it with yourself too much,” he said. “But on the other hand, you can use it in other battles, so you have more energy and power.”

Winger Ethan Finlay backtracked to the regular-season finale, where he failed to convert a great scoring opportunity in a 1-0 road loss to the Seattle Sounders. “It’s something that I’ve thought about most of the offseason and the difference that my opportunity could have had,” he said.

If Minnesota had beaten or tied Seattle that day, the Loons’ would have secured the second seed, not the fourth, and avoided the dangers of a Galaxy lineup that included heavyweights Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Cristian Pavon, Sebastian Lleget and Jonathan Dos Santos. Lleget and Dos Santos each scored.

Soon after the Galaxy loss, roughly 10 Minnesota players commiserated over beers at one of their condos in Minneapolis.

“A lot about the game. A lot about the season. It just takes a while to digest,” defender Michael Boxall said. “It’s what we could have done better, what are we happy with and just hopes for the next year.”

Center back Ike Opara was one of the few players who said the loss doesn’t linger. “A one-game off,” the 2019 MLS defender of the year said. “Things happen. We were unlucky.”