Two weeks into pre-season and there is very little to report from MNUFC.
The biggest news out of the Orlando training camp at the moment is the continued absences of Kemar Lawrence and Emanuel Reynoso. According to a club statement, both players remain in their home countries, Jamaica and Argentina respectively, “dealing with personal matters.”
The club, the statement continued, “will provide an update when we have more to share.” In coach Adrian Heath’s media availability on Thursday the first follow-up question concerning Reynoso’s absence was quickly shut down and referred back to the released statement. So, we are left to assume and speculate.
Maybe they are waiting for the charter flight — To fly to Florida with the two to three new signings. Which is, of course, not actually a funny joke and a bit callous and shallow. Especially on a day when we were reminded that professional athletes are not simply characters in our sports fan fiction. They have every right to deal with personal matters as they need to. The real point to make, here, is that the club has not earned the right to a ‘no comment,’ especially when those personal matters may be legal or criminal.
For a league built on supporters’ culture, MLS is often rather opaque, a black box of parity and stability. In three comments during his media availability, Heath pulled back, a little, one corner of that black box, noting the strangeness of the league’s roster rules: in relation to available U22 Initiative roster slots for future signings, the club’s need to draft Emmanuel Iwe even though he had already played for MNUFC2, and the club’s desire to get international players on green cards as quickly as possible to open up International roster spots. The roster, it seems, is on his mind.
Heath did confirm, although it has not been officially announced by the club, the signing of Mikael Marques from AFC Eskilstuna, of Sweden’s Superettan, the second tier of Swedish professional soccer. “Our Scandinavian scouts have been really impressed with him,” Heath said, going on to describe Marques as a versatile defensive player: “athletic, can play right back also, has played defensive midfield.” The 21-year-old center back will hopefully add some much-needed depth at the position for the Loons, while also continuing their recent youth movement.
Heath also noted that there wasn’t much quality on display in the team’s 1-0 win over NYCFC; it was, he said, a “typical opening friendly, a lot of people running around, a lot of enthusiasm. I don’t think the soccer was great from both teams.” Heath didn’t seem overly concerned by the lack of quality, though; preseason, he insisted, is about getting fit and staying healthy.
As they work into shape, the team will scrimmage a group of college players over the weekend and will close out their time in Florida with games against Philadelphia Union (Friday, January 27) and Orlando City (Wednesday, February 1).
Editor’s note: E Pluribus Loonum offers our condolences to the family and friends of Anton Walkes, and to the Charlotte FC and Atlanta United communities. Walkes’ death is a reminder to appreciate this game and the people who make it a community.