Last week, Minnesota United veteran midfielder Ozzie Alonso received hugs and pats from a former teammates at Seattle, where he played 10 successful seasons.
This week, the story line repeats but with a twist: United plays Chicago and former Loons captain Francisco Calvo on Saturday for the first time since last week’s trade sent him away.
Loons midfielder Miguel Ibarra calls it yet another game. But such situations rarely are, at least for somebody.
Only eight days after the May 3 trade, Calvo will meet a team he led for most of his two-plus seasons in Minnesota. He does so embittered by coach Adrian Heath’s decision to keep him sidelined after he served a one-game red card suspension, and by what he called the team’s unrelated decision to trade him five days later.
He said Heath never supported him, even though he sacrificed by playing out of position at left back.
“He put me in the trash as if I were a rookie, to put it that way,” he said in a translated Spanish-language interview after he played his first game for Chicago last weekend.
A player motivated to face his former team dates to Heath’s playing days in England long ago — and well beyond.
“It’s always something to prove, I don’t care who you are,” Heath said. “It didn’t surprise me. You get a bit hurt when you get traded, but we have to do for the rest of the group. If there is somebody in the group we don’t feel is truly engaged in what we do, then we have to think about what we’re going to do about that.”
Calvo called himself “happy” for the fresh chance.
Ibarra spoke with his friend and former teammate just after the trade and knows what to expect Saturday from a player often so fiery and outspoken.
“We know he’s going to have that little edge because he wants to beat the team,” Ibarra said. “I was a little bit shocked and didn’t think he’d say anything like that in an interview, but that’s kind of his personality. I look forward to seeing him again. But now that’s over with and we keep doing what we do.”
Heath has kept Eric Miller at left back since Calvo was suspended for that one game. United has allowed one goal in the past three games — a victory and two draws — after it surrendered seven goals in its previous two.
When asked about Calvo’s comments, Miller said: “I tried to read them in Spanish, but my Spanish isn’t great. I think I picked up the gist a little bit. Fran was here for 2½ years. He was always a great teammate to me, a great friend. He has accomplished a lot in his career, so it’s up to him to say what he wants.”
Before last week’s Seattle game, Alonso said he needed to control his emotions because he didn’t want them to work against him. Afterward, he said he did so very well.
“You’re going to get the calm, collected Ozzie until you get the one or two borderline psychotic outbursts that get us going,” said United defender Ike Opara, smiling. “That’s who he is. He has a presence about him. It was no different [against Seattle].”
Like Alonso last week and Calvo on Saturday, Opara will get his chance to check his emotions when he plays his former Sporting Kansas City twice this season, starting with a game there in August.
“I’m sure it’ll be crazy when that time comes,” Opara said. “I’m sure there will be interviews and some quotes for it. I’m sure there will be a lot of different emotions.”