Three key Minnesota United players won’t leave the club to play on the international stage before the Loons’ final game this month.
Finland players Robin Lod and Jukka Raitala and Slovakia’s Jan Gregus will be available to play for Minnesota against Real Salt Lake on May 29. That trio of regular Loons starters will then join their respective national teams before the European Championships starting in mid-June.
Both national teams have friendlies scheduled between May 29 and June 1, and that presented a direct conflict with Minnesota’s final game before the FIFA break. But on Tuesday, manager Adrian Heath said all three will remain with the Loons for that game, and Heath pointed out that RSL’s Albert Rusnak, a Slovakian teammate of Gregus, also will be available for that match.
Finland and Slovakia both have a second friendly match a few days later in June, which the Loons players could play in before the major tournament begins.
United’s standard has been to not stand in the way of players going off to play their national teams, while this case has added nuance of front-end friendlies before what could be prolonged absences that will impact Minnesota on the back end.
The Loons restart MLS play with pair of games June 19 and June 23, when Finland and Slovakia will be finishing Euro group-stage games. If those countries advance in the tournament, they could miss even more United games, starting June 26 and beyond.
While neither Finland or Slovakia are favorites, a cinderella run could lead them to the knockout rounds. The Euro tournament final is July 11.
Hunou en route
The flight from Paris for new Loons center forward Adrien Hunou was scheduled to arrive at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport before midnight Tuesday.
The club’s high-priced Designated Player will need to undergo a seven-day self-isolation period for COVID-19 once he arrives in the U.S., according to the State Department. He will work out on his own away from the team in the afternoons at the National Sports Center, then be available to join in first-team sessions next Wednesday.
Meanwhile, Argentine winger Franco Fragapane is not expected to play for Talleres on Tuesday night as he prepares for his own travels to Minnesota.
“I will be disappointed if both of them are not available” for the game against Salt Lake, Heath said.
In a return to pre-pandemic norms, the Loons opened Tuesday’s training session to the media for the first time since early 2020.
United starters from Saturday’s 1-0 victory over FC Dallas went through a lighter session, while the backups played a short-sided game. Here are three things that stood out during Tuesday’s work:
— Attacker Aziel Jackson had perhaps the most-impressive play of the day. The new homegrown signing sprinted at goal, shook off a hug from center back Nabi Kibunguchy and slotted a shot inside the far post and past goalkeeper Dayne St. Clair.
— Goalkeeper Adrian Zendejas stood tall in net to made a series of point-blank saves during one sequence. Heath said he feels like the club has four quality goalkeepers and Zendejas would be the backup if something happened to Tyler Miller or St. Clair.
— On the other field with the starters, center back Michael Boxall was goofing off with Romain Metanire when Boxall chipped a ball not only over a goal but the fence behind it. While there are dozens of balls available and kit men to fetch the errant ones, the Loons’ team captain made the trek to retrieve this one himself.
Emanuel Reynoso is the fifth-most fouled player in MLS, and he has has a series of knocks to his calf, shin and knee to show for it. “Nothing we think is going to be a problem,” Heath emphasized. Reynoso didn’t train Tuesday. … St. Clair is expected join Canada’s national team, but their World Cup qualifiers on June 5 and 8 won’t interfere with United games. But St. Clair’s possible involvement in CONCACAF Gold Cup in July would present conflicts. … With 27 clubs in MLS this season, one is the odd team out each week when a full schedule of games is played. This weekend is Minnesota’s turn to be on a bye. … The club expects to have a few young players go out on loan as soon as this week, Heath said Tuesday. Some potential candidates might be Jackson, Kibunguchy and goalkeeper Fred Emmings. … Winger Niko Hansen (thigh) went through rehab during and after Tuesday’s session.