ST. PAUL — Minnesota United head coach Adrian Heath said the club believes they have isolated two positive COVID-19 cases, and with complete negative testing otherwise, they returned to training Tuesday, Oct. 13, in Blaine, Minn., and are preparing to play a game against Chicago Fire at 7 p.m. Wednesday at Allianz Field.
“We feel as though we’ve nipped it in the bud — we are hoping so,” Heath said.
Heath described a “shock” when he found out early Saturday morning that two players had tested positive and their game at FC Dallas on Sunday night would need to be postponed.
It’s MLS policy to not identify COVID-positive players, and Heath declined to say whether the two cases were connected to one another. Those two players will quarantine for 14 days, meaning they will miss at least three games, with a home match against Houston on Sunday and a road game at Cincinnati on Oct. 24.
Five Loons players were captured in social-media posts training Tuesday: Ethan Finlay, Michael Boxall, Kei Kamara, Hassani Dotson and Jacori Hayes.
United said Saturday all other Minnesota players and staff had tested negative three additional times. Training was suspended Sunday and Monday and all players and team staff were quarantined while additional testing and contact tracing took place.
Rapid testing Tuesday had full negative results and there will be more testing Wednesday morning.
United’s developments are in contrast to the Colorado Rapids’ issues. On Monday, their continuing outbreak forced matches to be postponed for the next 10 days.
“They thought they sorted out and then it came back with vengeance again, so we’ve expressed to the players how important it is to try to follow all the protocol they have been given,” Heath said.
The Loons-Dallas match has yet to be rescheduled, a spokesman said. Finding a date will be difficult. Two weeks where United don’t have midweek games don’t work into Dallas’ schedule. One option would be fitting it in after the regular season finale on Nov. 8 and the opening round of the MLS Cup Playoffs.
Heath said the club “couldn’t have done an awful lot more” in their efforts to sign Medina, Minn., native Caden Clark to a pro contract. The 17-year-old member of U.S. youth national teams had been a part of the Minnesota Thunder and then Barca Residency Academy in Arizona before joining New York Red Bulls II in the USL Championship.
On Saturday, United received $75,000 in General Allocation Money from Red Bulls for Clark’s MLS rights. Clark went out and scored in his MLS debut on Saturday, and pundits believe he’s on his way to a top-flight career in Europe.
“I met with him and his father with the (club) owners, we tried to get it to a situation where he was going to play here,” Heath said Tuesday. “The fact that he wasn’t in our academy obviously was an issue, but in terms of we had him in. He trained a couple of times with our first team, and you can see the kid is a really, really good player, but like the Red Bulls they needed to see him play in USL before they could make a decision to offer him an MLS contract.”
The Loons were not in that situation because they don’t have an in-house second team, nor an affiliate agreement with a club. Minnesota tried to have Clark sign with Minnesota and then have him play for Forward Madison, a USL League One club that has had ties to the Loons.
“It was something they weren’t keen on, which I understand,” Heath said of the Madison proposal. “We tried everything we could.”
Red Bull obviously has a direct pathway for Clark to go to Europe through RB Leipzig and RB Salzburg under the same umbrella.
With Dotson and Hayes, the Loons have benefitted from added midfield depth this season. It’s helped them overcome absences of Jan Gregus, away with the Slovakian national team, and Ozzie Alonso, out with a hamstring injury.
“They have been terrific,” Heath said. “We went over a bit of video with them last week. A lot of the good things they did in the Nashville game and some of the stuff we think will help them moving forward. … The form of them two and their willingness to run and basically make life difficult for the opposition has been a huge bonus for us.”
Minnesota has had a couple of medical opinions on whether striker Luis Amarilla needs ankle surgery, and a decision will be made at the end of the week. With Amarilla on loan, Minnesota will need to consult with his parent club Velez Sarsfield in Argentina before a decision is made.
While midfielder Thomas Chacon was linked to loans to Uruguay and Spain this season, it looks like the 20-year-old will stay with United through the end of the season.