Minnesota United’s lineup release an hour before each match has been a mostly uneventful exercise this season.
Besides seven injuries to seven different players forcing Adrian Heath to make changes, the Loons head coach has stuck with a standard starting XI across the first 10 games of 2020.
But there will be plenty of intrigue on whom Heath will pick going into Wednesday’s game against Houston Dynamo at BBVA Compass Stadium.
Livid at the Loons’ lackluster start in a 3-1 loss FC Dallas on Saturday, Heath hooked all four of his starting attackers at halftime, including Ethan Finlay, who has started all 10 games, Robin Lod (nine starts), Luis Amarilla (eight) and Kevin Molino (six). Excluding Finlay, those three have been on the field at the starting whistle every time they’ve been fully fit.
“Forget the tactics, forget the shape, forget the system, it don’t matter,” Heath said. “If the opposition want to run around more than you, they want to tackle more than you, want to get the ball forward and get on the second ball … that has not changed from the ‘70s to what it is now. If you don’t compete against Liverpool, Bayern Munich and all these teams, they will run all over you. So, if it’s good enough for them, trust me, it’s good enough for Minnesota United — or it will be.”
Did those four subs — Hassani Dotson, who scored a great goal, Raheem Edwards, Mason Toye and Thomas Chacon — play their way into the starting lineup?
“They’ve certainly given themselves more of an opportunity, more of an opportunity for playing on Wednesday, trust me,” Heath said.
The performance Saturday came as a huge disappointment to Heath, who felt the club had its best week of training in Blaine.
And the Loons know Wednesday’s game will be circled by former centerpiece attacker Darwin Quintero and top striker Christian Ramirez, who are now in Houston. Quintero scored twice and assisted twice and Ramirez added a goal and an assist in Houston’s 5-2 blowout of Kansas City on Tuesday. First place K.C. beat Minnesota 2-1 in St. Paul on Aug. 21.
“It’s going to be difficult; they will obviously be buoyed by the fact that they’ve come up with a really big win and a few ex-players, so we know it’s not going to be easy on Wednesday,” Heath said.
A further layer of intrigue is the possible debut of central attacking midfielder Emanuel Reynoso. The club’s announcement of signing the Argentine to a Designated Player deal is imminent early this week.
Since preseason, Heath has promoted that the squad’s depth is as good as it’s been in his four years in Minnesota. With Saturday’s game starting a stretch of five matches in 16 days, now would be the time to use it.
“There is more than enough here,” Edwards said. “I think we are one of the top teams in terms of depth. Whenever we get our chance, we know we have to use it. Obviously, the guys that don’t really start as much, but I think the depth we have here is … very good. The reason I feel like he’s going to use us more as the season (goes), so we have to step up whenever we get called upon and do our best.”
After Dotson scored, Edwards, an offseason addition from Chicago Fire, nearly had an equalizer three minutes later, but his curling left-footed shot from 25 yards out hit off the far post.
“Oh my lord, you see me?” Edwards said. “I was running away. I thought I had it. It hit inside the post, too. I don’t how it didn’t go in. It’s unfortunate.”
As for the seasoned veterans who took a seat Saturday, Heath said what he wants to see is no different than ever before.
“It doesn’t matter if you are 18 or 32, you have a responsibility,” Heath said. “Not only to yourself and your family, the shirt, whatever. You have a commitment to make every time you put the shirt on. That doesn’t matter what age you are.”