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Loons’ starters running on empty going into D.C. United game on Saturday

Seven field players have played at least 90% of the minutes across the five MLS matches since June 25. Two more, for a total of nine, have been on the field at least 78% of the game action in that span.

SPORTS-LOONS-STARTERS-RUNNING-ON-EMPTY-1-SP.jpg
Minnesota United manager Adrian Heath motions for midfielder Franco Fragapane (7) to move up against Real Salt Lake’s Aaron Herrera in the first half of a MLS game at Allianz Field in St. Paul on July 3.
John Autey / St. Paul Pioneer Press
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ST. PAUL -- In preseason, Minnesota United manager Adrian Heath boasted about his roster depth for 2022, saying it was the best he’s had in his six years at the helm. But come the dog days of July, the Loons’ squad rotations have been minimal and Heath is relying on the same core players game in and game out.

Seven field players have played at least 90% of the minutes across the five MLS matches since June 25. Two more, for a total of nine, have been on the field at least 78% of the game action in that span.

The energy levels of players was questioned in a 1-1 draw against Sporting Kansas City on Wednesday. “I thought we gave away the initiative too early,” Heath said Friday. “I don’t think we started quick enough, and I let the players be aware of that. Hopefully we will have a reaction to that.”

The Loons must go again on short rest against D.C. United at 7 p.m. Saturday at Allianz Field, and it’s hard to see many, if any, primary players getting reprieves this weekend.

Heath wasn’t willing to even allude to changes to the starting XI to face the Eastern Conference’s last-place team. “We’ll let the (players) know (Saturday) what the team is,” he said Friday.

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The Loons’ depth was hit with midfielder Hassani Dotson’s season-ending knee injury in April, fullback Romain Metanire only playing 22 minutes due to recurring hamstring problems and the transfer of forward Adrien Hunou back to France after playing only 128 minutes this season.

Lately, the ankle injury to midfielder Kervin Arriaga hasn’t helped MNUFC. The Honduran will miss his fourth straight game Saturday.

Minnesota isn’t calling on its bench much, either. The Loons are tied for 27th in the 28-team league in substitutions with 65 total subs across 22 games this season, according to fbref.com. That’s 2.9 subs per game, leaving 2.1 unused subs per match.

Here’s the percentage workloads the Loons have had as they have played a game roughly every four days since late June:

  • Michael Boxall — 100%
  • Bakaye Dibassy — 100%
  • D.J. Taylor — 99%
  • Kemar Lawrence — 98%
  • Emanuel Reynoso — 95%
  • Robin Lod — 95%
  • Franco Fragapane — 91%
  • Luis Amarilla — 82%
  • Wil Trapp — 78%

Amarilla and Trapp’s numbers likely would have been higher, too, if Trapp wasn’t suspended for yellow-card accumulation against Inter Miami on June 25 and if Amarilla wasn’t subbed off out of precaution for an adductor injury against L.A. Galaxy on June 29.

Waiting on visas

New D.C. United head coach Wayne Rooney, the legendary former English player, won’t be on the sideline for Saturday’s game in St. Paul. After his appointment early this week, Rooney is awaiting a work visa before he is eligible to be in the dugout.

That’s the same hangup for MNUFC’s new Paraguyan player Alan Benitez, who is ineligible to play against D.C.

Helping Ukranians

MNUFC welcomed two Ukrainian youth soccer teams participating in USA Cup to the Loons’ training session in Blaine on Thursday. The players and coaches from the war-torn country mingled and received advice from MLS players and staff.

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“If this takes their mind off what’s happening back home for a split second, then it’s a good thing,” Heath said. “They all seemed to be enjoying it. The world’s game always seems to bring everybody together. It’s nice to get them kids out of the environment they are in and bring them here, where they can enjoy playing football.”

The Ukrainians will attend MNUFC’s international friendly match against Everton next Wednesday.

Taxi stands up

D.C. attacking midfielder Taxi Fountas has scored 10 goals in 12 games this season and was named to the MLS All-Star Game earlier this week. He is the primary danger man the Loons will need to contain.

But D.C. traded wingback Julian Gressel to Vancouver on Friday. Gressel’s passes set up Fountas for 12 scoring chances this season, and no MLS player has set up a single teammate more this season, per Opta.

Briefly

Like Minnesota, D.C. United has had a condensed schedule since late June. … Arriaga is expected to be out at least another week, Heath said. Arriaga was chipper and participating in soccer table tennis before Friday’s training session. … Winger Niko Hansen ramped up toward full training this week. … C.C. Uche did some rehab work in Friday’s training. The MNUFC2 player injured his knee in April and is expected back in full training by September. … Given the Loons’ starters recent workloads, they should only make cameo appearances against Everton on Wednesday, with an MLS game at Houston a week from Saturday.

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Related Topics: MINNESOTA LOONSSOCCER
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