Minnesota United picked to miss MLS postseason; Loons look to ‘prove them wrong’
“They have (said) that the last four years, as I can remember. How did that go?” manager Adrian Heath said Tuesday.
ST. PAUL -- Minnesota United is the only Western Conference team to make the MLS Cup Playoffs in each of the previous four seasons. Pundits at MLSsoccer.com don’t predict a fifth in 2023.
MNUFC is projected to finish 11th in the 14-team West, according to an average ranking from 11 league commentators.
“They have (said) that the last four years, as I can remember. How did that go?” manager Adrian Heath said Tuesday. “Now, it’s up to us to prove them wrong again and we will do it.”
Last year, eight MLS commentators had the Loons finishing in an average place of 7.4, which was just outside of the seven-team field.
Minnesota ended up in sixth place in 2022 and lost to FC Dallas in penalty kicks in the first round of the playoffs. Those two teams will play again in the season opener Saturday night in Frisco, Texas.
“Preseason predictions are a crapshoot anyway,” goalkeeper Dayne St. Clair said. “… I’d be impressed if any of them in any position get anyone automatically (correct) because no one knows with injuries, midseason additions, things like that. They put it out there for people to talk about but, I think, even they know they wouldn’t put money on what they have.”
MLS announced Tuesday the playoff field will expand from seven teams a year ago to nine teams this autumn, with a “wild card” game between the No. 8 and 9 seeds. Even in this expanded format, the prognosticators don’t see the Loons in the field.
The absence of two-time MLS all-star Emanuel Reynoso likely contributes to the low expectations. Reynoso is in Argentina dealing with personal matters and has been suspended by MLS for his prolonged absence.
Heath said there was no update on if or when Reynoso could join the club but the coach added, “I know he still wants to be here.”
“I have not spoke to him personally, (but) via people,” Heath continued. “I spoke to his father and brother last week and they are of the same mind and, as I say, hopefully in the next few days, weeks — I don’t know. Hopefully a bit of common sense will prevail and he will be back here.”
The Loons, meanwhile, continue to pursue attacking additions.
“We’re hopefully very close on one,” Heath said. “… And we are still working on one or two other things.”
The Loons have made two unsuccessful overtures to South Korean forwards (Hwang Oi-Jo and Che Gue-Sung) and are believed to be going back to that well, this time with a winger in their sights.
MNUFC also has one vacant Under-22 Initiative slot and can still buy down a Designated Player slot currently held by Luis Amarilla or Mender Garcia. It’s more likely only one DP would get bought down.
Three Loons — Amarilla, Kervin Arriaga and Joseph Rosales — are in their native countries obtaining U.S. green cards. This step is vital for MNUFC’s international spots before the MLS roster compliance deadline on Friday.
Hassani Dotson and Alan Benitez missed Tuesday’s training with illness, Heath said. Brent Kallman (foot) and Mikael Marquez (ankle) also were out. Daniel Henry and Ryen Jiba have been dealing with issues that kept them from making the preseason trip to California earlier this month.
Mark Followill and Danielle Slayton will call Saturday’s game on MLS Season Pass on Apple TV+. The stream is free from the subscription plan. … Former Totino-Grace forward Herbert Endeley, 21, signed a one-year contract with Dallas last week. The former Mr. Soccer for Minnesota attended Indiana University and was drafted 24th overall by FC Dallas in the MLS draft in December.
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