Loons will be without 6 key players next week versus Vancouver
Up first, the Loons (1-0-1) play Colorado Rapids (0-2-1) on Saturday night.
ST. PAUL -- Minnesota United’s depth will be tested next week.
After the Loons (1-0-1) play Colorado Rapids (0-2-1) on Saturday night, MNUFC will have five starters and one key substitute leaving for duties with their respective national teams. They will miss the home match against Vancouver Whitecaps on March 25.
The list: Dayne St. Clair (Canada), Robin Lod (Finland), Bongi Hlongawane (South Africa), Michael Boxall (New Zealand), Kervin Arriaga and Joseph Rosales (Honduras).
“We might take that into consideration this weekend,” manager Adrian Heath said Tuesday. “It’s not ideal, but we will pick the team in Colorado with that in mind. Then we will work from there. What we can’t do is maybe risk one or two players who we know are going to be here for the following week.”
That means that Heath possibly won’t start or put heavy minutes into players such as Hassani Dotson in Colorado, knowing Dotson will be a key midfield piece with Arriaga and Rosales away next week.
The Loons have lacked healthy center backs this season, but Brent Kallman (leg) was back in training Tuesday and will be the top choice to fill in for Boxall. Doniel Henry is also nearing a full return to practice.
Back-up goalie Clint Irwin is in line to step in for St. Clair. Left winger Franco Fragapane would be a candidate to assume Robin Lod’s spot as central attacking midfielder. Cam Dunbar might get a shot on left wing and possibly Mender Garcia is the pick with Hlongwane to be away.
MNUFC2 player Molik Jesse Khan has also been selected by the Trinidad and Tobago national team.
United are closing in on a deal for 20-year-old South Korean winger Jeong Sang-bin from Wolverhampton, Heath said Tuesday.
“Looks like we got a deal done, so hopefully we will get him in here in the next 24 hours,” Heath said.
Jeong has been called into South Korea’s Under-22 team for the Doha Cup next week.
Pass the bull
MNUFC completed only 48% of its passes in the 1-1 draw with the New York Red Bulls on Saturday, which set a low in MLS recorded history, per MLSsoccer.com. New York wasn’t much better at 52%. The league’s site said seven of the nine lowest passing percentages have been either Red Bulls or their opponents since 2016.
The Red Bulls’ pressing style contributes to this stat and so did the abundance of snow on the pitch at Allianz Field.
When Hlongwane scored the Loons’ goal Saturday, the South African busted out the same celebration he used when he last scored in July. It’s a unique movement where he places his hands out from his body and then seemingly bobs (or pecks?) his head forward.
“I did it because a lot of people here like it,” Hlongwane explained. “I went and watched (MNUFC2) last year. I met these two small boys. … They told me that they did it and took a picture. I posted it on my Whatsapp. Then they were happy and so that’s why I did it.”
Hlongwane said he doesn’t have a name for the celebration, but the club’s social media team has deemed it “The Bongi.”
Saturday’s game will be called by Max Bretos and Brian Dunseth and will stream on Apple TV + without the need for an MLS Season Pass subscription. … MNUFC2 goalkeeper Alec Smir has been sent on a season-long loan to Colorado Springs Switchbacks of USL Championship. … Three Under-15 academy team players — Tim Dennis, Prince Forfor and Yahir Resendiz-Gonzalez — received invitations to a U.S. Soccer regional training camp in Bradenton, Fla., last week. … The MNUFC2 season starts March 24, with the developmental team’s home opener May 7 at the National Sports Center in Blaine, Minnesota. … Khan and Zaydan Bello trained with the first team Tuesday.
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