According to the Pioneer Press’ Andy Greder, defender Francisco Calvo and attacker Johan Venegas are expected to leave on Monday to join the Costa Rican national team. Costa Rica takes on Panama on June 8th and Trinidad and Tobago on June 13th in World Cup Qualifying. It has not yet been announced if United attacker Kevin Molino will join Trinidad and Tobago for their Qualifiers, though it seems likely.
The players’ exit comes at an interesting time for both players. Calvo has been a mainstay on the backline, having earned the captain’s armband after Vadim Demidov’s expensive fall from grace. Calvo has fairly consistently held down the back line (paired with local hero, Brent Kallman) and showed flashes of attacking brilliance in Saturday’s win over Orlando City.
Get you a defender who can do both. pic.twitter.com/q1yeHjw3IW— Major League Soccer (@MLS) May 28, 2017
Whereas Calvo’s spot on the starting lineup is unquestioned, Venegas’ spot has been up in the air the last few weeks. Over the course of only a few weeks, Venegas was removed from the starting lineup in favor of first overall draft pick Abu Danladi, asked to leave practice and reportedly unhappy with the United’s front office. His minutes and production had been limited as of late, but he was given the start yesterday where this work of magic lead to Christian Ramirez’s game winning goal.
What a flick, what a finish. @Chris_Ramirez17 puts @MNUFC in front. #MINvORL https://t.co/UK1fzBdKWR— Major League Soccer (@MLS) May 28, 2017
Venegas’ start in the Orlando City match seemed arbitrary, with Danladi out with a groin injury and Molino out with an illness. He showed instances of quality play, but otherwise was not entirely impressive.
The international call-ups also come at an interesting time for the club as well. United’s roster depth has been called into question repeatedly, especially by us, and this will test that even further. The Costa Rican pair will miss next Saturday’s match at Sporting Kansas City (June 3), the club’s US Open Cup match at Kansas City (June 14) and possibly the trip to Real Salt Lake (June 17).
Calvo’s absence will force the club to make some decisions on the back line. Joseph Greenspan has returned from his successful loan stint to the USL’s Pittsburgh Riverhounds, where he made the USL Team of the Week twice and in eight starts helped the club keep 5 clean sheets. Greenspan has not made an appearance for United since the preseason, though the success of his loan may warrant at least an appearance in the next few games. Vadim Demidov is an option to play in back, but we have tried our hardest to forget those times so I won’t entertain that thought any further. Jermaine Taylor has made appearances for the team on the backline this season, and his late substitution in the Orlando City match may be an indication that he may get the starting nod.
Venegas’ absence (combined with the possibility of a Molino call-up) could leave United with even fewer options in the attack. In the Orlando City match, with Molino and Danladi both out, United’s bench featured one goalkeeper, four defenders and two defensive midfielders. Danladi’s groin injury will likely leave him out for at least the first Sporting match (though there is hope that recovery is going faster than expected), so the thin attacking corps may be even thinner. Bashkim Kadrii has been absent from the gameday lineup for a few weeks now, but he may be called upon to fill in out wide for either Molino or Venegas.
Adrian Heath will have some challenges in the roster ahead, and with holes needing to be filled in the attack and defense, some high (or low) scoring affairs could be coming up for the Loons.
Costa Rica currently sits at second in the CONCACAF Hexagonal Qualifying, with 7 points. The top three teams out of this final group will automatically qualify for the World Cup, and the fourth place team will earn a chance at a playoff with the fifth-place finisher from the Asian qualifiers. There are still 6 more games to be played by each side, but Costa Rica sits in a fairly good position, especially after dismantling the United States Men’s National team 4-0 in November in a game where Venegas netted a goal.
UPDATE: Per Andy Greder (again), Kevin Molino and Jermaine Taylor will be available for the June 3rd match at Sporting Kansas City, but both will be likely to leave to join their respective national teams later.
#MNUFC's Kevin Molino (Trinidad) and Jermaine Taylor (Jamaica) won't join their national teams until after Saturday's match vs. Kansas City.— Andy Greder (@andygreder) May 30, 2017
This has nothing to do with this story, but remember when Ibson did this:
This is simply magnificent from Ibson. pic.twitter.com/vAUurUUg7m— Total MLS (@TotalMLS) May 28, 2017