There are road games, there are bad road games, and then there is what happened last time Minnesota United played Los Angeles FC.

The Loons scored three minutes into the game, gave up the lead 90 seconds later, and from there, the entire match was one-way traffic. Denis Bouanga had a hat-trick before halftime. Miguel Tapias scored an own goal. Dayne St. Clair had to make ten saves - one off the franchise record, and one of only six double-digit save performances in the entire league last year - and he STILL gave up four goals and lost 5-1.

It was an exercise in damage control, in saving face. Both Loons fullbacks were substituted at halftime. Asked why, manager Adrian Heath said, “I think it was pretty clear if you watched the game.” The next day, MNUFC ownership showed that they’d been watching - and let Heath go too.

Since then, the Loons have floundered to right the ship. It took them months to hire their new “chief soccer officer,” a hiring complicated by the fact that even after they hired him, he still had a different job. Their interim coach quit, and so they moved on to their second interim coach, mainly because he was one of the few people who still had a key to the building. They went the whole off-season without making major on-field changes to a team that had missed the playoffs and, by the end, possessed some of the sourest vibes you’ll find.

I was not alone in doubting them. But they are clearly geniuses and I am cleary dumb, because this team now has ten points - the best four-game start in team history - and leads the conference standings, having beaten LAFC 2-0 on Saturday night.

The very team that sent them into the tailspin has confirmed that they’ve somehow come out of it just fine.

That said Loons are in kind of an odd spot this week. They’re getting results, the entire team is finally healthy, and the vibes are great - but now they’ve got two weeks off (with the exception of a random midweek friendly against Irish side St. Patrick’s, which may qualify as a big name, but for strictly non-soccer reasons).

They also know that they probably should have lost to both Columbus and Orlando City, that Austin might be the worst team in MLS, and that LAFC hasn’t scored a goal in three weeks. And that their manager has been the manager for six days. And that they still haven’t had their best eleven players on the field together.

And that, and I don’t want to gloss over this, that their best player - Emanuel Reynoso - might not fit into what they’ve been trying to do so far this year. Reynoso is great for many reasons, but he seems unlikely to fit into a high-press, run-your-socks-off kind of defensive setup. When he came on for the final half-hour against LAFC, he looked the same as he always did - floating all over the field, and walking to space rather than sprinting to a place in the MNUFC press.

Robin Lod has been the one in that attacking-midfield spot so far, and Lod - while not the fastest - certainly plays intelligently and contributes to the press. Reynoso presents as more of a mercurial genius who’ll search out the ball wherever he can find it. Can that style work, if the Loons are going to keep on trying to harry opposing defenders on the edge of their own penalty area?

And if Reynoso takes that spot, and if the team’s two best wingers are Bongokuhle Hlongwane on the left and Sang Bin Jeong on the right, then where does that leave Lod? And if the answer to that is “as a number 8,” does that mean Hassani Dotson doesn’t have a role - or is he tasked with replacing Wil Trapp as the team’s chief defensive midfielder?

And can a midfield of Dotson, Lod, and Reynoso protect the team’s back line, if the front three are pressing? If they’re playing all of their best players, can they keep playing the style that’s won so many fans this year?

Does new coach Eric Ramsay even want to play that style?

What, in short, is this team? They’ve got the GM now, and the manager, and the full band is back together. They’ve got fans believing in them. They’ve got the lead in the Western Conference. They’ve got what are perhaps the most positive vibes this franchise has ever experienced (the 2020 playoff run was great, but there were no fans around).

So now, it’s time to find out - who are they?