ST. PAUL -- When Ozzie Alonso and Ethan Finlay played their former clubs for the first time this season, Ike Opara said he’d have something to say when he was in the same spot — mid-August, when Sporting Kansas City was next on the schedule.
Turns out, the reunion will be sooner than expected.
On Thursday, Minnesota United’s new center back learned his former club will be the Loons’ opponent in a fourth-round U.S. Open Cup match on June 12.
Still, Opara wasn’t ready to share his feelings this week — at least not publicly.
“It will be good to see them,” said Opara, who became one of Major League Soccer’s best defenders during six seasons in Kansas. “I’m sure leading up to that game there will be a lot of comments and banter, especially privately.”
The Loons will be playing Sporting for the fourth time in the past six national tournaments, all Kansas City victories.
Alonso and Opara still have to play their former clubs on the road this season. Opara and the Loons go to Kansas on Aug. 22, and Alonso returns to Seattle on Oct. 6, when Minnesota expects to be jockeying for a playoff spot in the regular-season finale.
Former United fullback and fan favorite Jerome Thiesson will return to Minnesota for Sunday’s game against the Philadelphia Union.
From the snow-filled first MLS game in Minnesota in 2017 and into last season, Thiesson was a mainstay on United’s back line, playing 36 straight games. He scored twice and had four assists in 47 career games and played the 2019 season with Raperswil-Jona in his native Switzerland.
News of Thiesson’s homecoming lit up #MNUFC Twitter on Friday, and invitations went out for him to get on the “capo” stand to help lead chants and songs in front of the Wonderwall in the South stand at Allianz Field.
Thiesson told friend and former teammate Abu Daladi he doesn’t need a comp ticket and plans to be in that supporters groups’ section. Danladi said he used to eat lunch at Thiesson’s home lunch every Wednesday. They plan on going out to dinner during Thiesson’s trip.
“Very, very close with them,” Danladi said of Thiesson’s family. “Really excited to see him. I haven’t seen him in a while.”
Jan Gregus has paid Vito Mannone, but not for their bet on whether teammate Romain Metanire would score a goal — which the defender did it in Saturday’s 1-0 win over the Houston Dynamo.
Gregus has been tipping Mannone when he gets a shutout, and United’s goalkeeper now has five clean sheets this season — tying a club record. So Mannone isn’t clamoring for his bet payment.
“I say, ‘What if Romain scores?’ ” Mannone said. “(Gregus) said, ‘OK, I’ll pay you a big amount.’ … He didn’t expect it and Romain scores. But it was a joke.”
Metanire won’t leave to play in the Madagascar national team’s friendly match against Luxembourg on Sunday and will be available for Sunday’s United game against the Union. After sitting out Wednesday’s 1-0 loss to Atlanta because of yellow card accumulation, Metanire will be a boost to United’s lineup.
Kevin Molino returned to training Friday after suffering a left hamstring injury in a 1-0 loss to Hertha Berlin on May 22. Coach Adrian Heath said the Trinidad and Tobago midfielder might be available off the bench Sunday. … Metanire, Molino, Gregus and Rasmus Schuller have upcoming national team duties. Gregus (Slovakia) and Schuller (Finland) are expected to leave soon after Sunday’s game. … Heath said he did not talk to Professional Referee Organization General Manager Howard Webb about the decision not to take another look at the Loons’ questionable no-goal ruling Wednesday.