SOCCER: With 1 key player missing, how is Loons’ starting lineup shaping up?
Without its all-star midfielder, MNUFC used a 4-3-3 formation in the 1-0 loss in a preseason match to the New York Red Bulls on Saturday.
ST. PAUL -- While the broken record continues to skip — star midfielder Emanuel Reynoso has yet to join Minnesota United’s preseason camp — some fresh sounds are coming out of the Loons’ training.
Without its all-star midfielder, MNUFC used a 4-3-3 formation in the 1-0 loss to the New York Red Bulls in the Coachella Valley Invitational in Indio, Calif., on Saturday. In previous friendlies, they have tinkered with a 4-4-2.
Winger/central midfielder Robin Lod has used his versatility to step into Reynoso’s role as a central attacking midfielder, which had typically come in the middle of manager Adrian Heath’s preferred 4-2-3-1 system.
New center back Micky Tapias has impressed Heath since joining the team from Pachuca last week, but the Mexican needs his work visa in order to get valuable minutes in preseason games against San Jose on Wednesday or Vancouver on Saturday. If he gets his stamp in that time, he could start on the left side of Michael Boxall in the season opener against FC Dallas on Feb. 25.
Heath was asked Tuesday which attackers have stood out since training camp opened Jan. 9. “Bongi (Hlongwane) has come back in really good nick,” Heath said. “He looks quick, he looks strong. … I think Mender (Garcia) has come back looking a lot sharper. We know Luis (Amarilla) can score goals at this level. (Franco Fragapane) is what he is; he was there with his seven goals again last year.”
Central midfielders Kervin Arriaga and Joseph Rosales returned to their native Honduras on Sunday to work on their U.S. green cards. They will miss Wednesday’s friendly but might be back in time for the Vancouver match. If they are successful with their paperwork, it will open up two international roster spots for Loons to consider more additions. MNUFC is pursuing at least two attackers, potentially a striker and a winger.
Besides the Hondurans, Wil Trapp and Hassani Dotson will factor into spots in whatever midfield combo Heath uses in Texas in 10 days. Dotson continues to recover well from knee surgery last April, Heath said.
Heath’s lineup Saturday will be as close as possible to what he wants to use for the season opener a week later. Wednesday’s game will employ a split squad, Heath said.
Goalkeeper Dayne St. Clair has an unencumbered path to start in net come the season opener, while top-choice fullbacks Kemar Lawrence and D.J. Taylor dealing with what Heath described as minor injuries in camp.
United is 1-2-1 in four preseason games with a minus-2 goal differential.
Reynoso, who was suspended without pay by MLS on Friday, will be seeing big checks absent in his bank account. With an estimated salary of $2 million in 2023, that is a big sum to be going without twice a month, and it could coax him to leave Argentina. … New Swedish/Brazilian center back Mikael Marques joined the Loons in California on Friday and the 21-year-old had his first training session on Monday. … MNUFC will host a kit reveal at 6 p.m. Friday both online and at Black and Blue Team Store inside Allianz Field. Last year, the Loons added its black “night kit,” while this year’s addition replaces the blue “river kit.” It’s expected to be colorful. … MNUFC will enter the 2023 U.S. Open Cup in the third round on April 25-26. If the Loons win, they will advance to the USOC round of 32 on May 9-10. … Mounds View, Minnesota, native Micah Burton scored for the U.S. youth national under-17 team in their 3-1 victory over Trinidad and Tobago in the Concacaf U-17 Championship group stage on Monday in Guatemala. Burton has been in the Austin FC academy for two years.
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