Minnesota United manager Adrian Heath gave his players a few days off over Major League Soccer’s mid-season break, during which several left to play in the Gold Cup.
“It was running on fumes,” remarked Heath. “The lads were - mentally as much as physically - needing a break from each other, from me, and I needed a break from them.”
The rejuvenated players returned to training and looked “good”, according to Heath. Minnesota United had a double training session today at the National Sports Center in Blaine. Among the drills were several working on crosses and finishing, as well as turning midfield possession into meaningful attacking opportunities.
Among the players training were new arrivals Sam Nicholson and Michael Boxall. The two were full participants in drills. Heath spent plenty of time working with Nicholson on his play on the right wing, while Boxall was immediately injected into the back line.
There were some notable absences from training. Marc Burch and Thomas de Villardi were undergoing rehab exercises with the training staff, while Brent Kallman and Abu Danladi watched from the sidelines. Goalkeeper John Alvbage, whose loan deal is expiring soon, was not at training.
Fans need not be too concerned with Kallman or Danladi’s injuries. As far as Kallman’s knee injury goes, “It’s getting better,” said coach Heath. “We’re hopeful that once his little period of rest is over he can actually join in.”
Abu Danladi is progressing much the same. “He’s day-to-day,” said Heath. Once the rookie is healthy, he’ll have plenty of work to do with his coach. Heath told reporters that Danladi has “missed too many games” and that the team needs to get him “stronger, so he can cope with the rigors of everyday training.”
If fans were expecting to see newbies Nicholson and Boxall in Minnesota’s friendly with Club Atlas of Mexico on Saturday, there’s a good chance they’ll be let down. “We’re still hopeful, although it’s getting increasingly unlikely,” lamented Adrian Heath, “We’ve got issues with visas.”
Heath will be giving some fringe players a chance on Saturday, “the ones who haven’t played enough football lately”, as well as some players who have fallen out of favor.
One of the players who may be looking to redeem himself on Saturday is midfielder Miguel Ibarra. Heath left the fan favorite on the bench in United’s 1-0 loss to Columbus because of work rate problems.
Ibarra has fond memories of when he faced Atlas as a member of Club Leon, when he scored his first Liga MX goal. “It was my first start,” recalled Batman, “[T]hey gave me the ball, I just cut inside and hit it. It was an amazing feeling.”
Ibarra had high praise for Atlas, calling them a “really good team”. “They made a really good run...and now they’ve brought in better players.”
Manager Adrian Heath agreed with his midfielder. “[The friendly] is certainly a marquee,” he explained. The match will take place on Saturday at TCF Bank Stadium in Minneapolis. Kickoff is set for 7:30pm CT.