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Loons to face an uphill climb against Sporting KC due to Calvo’s absence

The Loons will look to get their first win on the road —without the help of the team’s captain.

MLS: Sporting KC at Minnesota United FC Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

Minnesota United will be without their captain, Francisco Calvo, for their upcoming match at Sporting Kansas City on Saturday. The Costa Rican international and his teammate, Johan Venegas, were both selected for to Costa Rica’s team for their upcoming World Cup Qualifiers against Panama and Trinidad and Tobago.

The Loons will have to soldier on despite the fact that they will be missing four players that have been in the team’s starting eleven as of late. In addition to the two international call-ups, the team will be without Abu Danladi due to injury and midfielder Sam Cronin will miss the game due to a suspension for his tackle on Orlando City defender PC.

It’s no secret that Calvo has been the heart and soul of the team’s defense so far in 2017. The club’s captain has played 90 minutes in every game in which the club has registered a point, and has missed just one game this season which was due to him being on international duty. Calvo ranks eighth amongst defenders in Audi Player Index so far this season, despite the fact that he has not provided an assist or scored a goal yet in his rookie campaign.

MLS is a league that throws fixtures at teams unforgivingly, and the Loons will have to hunker down and find a way to defeat a Sporting KC team that has faltered since losing on the road to MNUFC just under a month ago. Minnesota is not without its own particular struggles this season, as the team has yet to win a road game and has mustered just two road points in six tries.

Kansas City’s cupboard is just as barren as Minnesota’s as they will be missing a number of their important players on Saturday. Defenders Matt Besler and Graham Zusi have both been called up to the U.S. International squad, and Honduran international Roger Espinoza will serve a one-match suspension during Sunday’s contest.

Sporting also has a trio of players who are suffering from injuries which include forwards Dom Dwyer and Diego Rubio as well as defender Kevin Ellis. Dwyer’s availability will likely be a game-time decision, while Rubio has not been cleared to take contact since he tore his ACL last year. Ellis’ absence is particularly concerning for the home team as their defending depth is already depleted due to Besler and Zusi’s call-ups. The homegrown defender has started just twice this season but his quadriceps strain is significant enough that the team signed Amer Didic from its reserve side.

Trying to forecast the potential starting eleven for MNUFC seems like a futile task due to the number of the players unavailable for selection. Luckily for the Loons, Kevin Molino will join up with his international team immediately following Saturday’s tilt, which means he will almost certainly be named in the team’s starting eleven. The Trinidadian missed the team’s 1-0 win over Orlando due to an illness but he’s just one game removed from a two-goal outing at Toronto.

Bashkim Kadrii, who was held out of the team’s last game due to an illness, should be available for selection as well. The Danish loanee has played just one minute since the second week in April, and coach Adrian Heath might opt to insert him into the starting lineup with Johan Venegas away.

Heath also mentioned to StarTribune reporter Megan Ryan that Rasmus Schuller, who has recently been sidelined due to a hip flexor, will be available to play this weekend. The Scandinavian duo of Kadrii and Schuller both have a huge opportunity to stake a claim for an increase in minutes moving forward. Both players have fallen out of favor over the past two months, and they should get an opportunity to prove themselves over the next handful of games. Heath went on to explain that some of the team’s depth pieces have the opportunity to keep their places if they play well and also added that this is the best opportunity they might have all season.

All-in-all, Saturday’s game represents a fantastic opportunity for the Loons to get off the shneid on the road against a team they handily beat earlier this season. These two teams will meet each other in the U.S. Open Cup on the 14th of this month but this game counts in the standings and will be tightly contested by both sides.