A familiar face appeared on the sideline of Minnesota United's practice Thursday at the National Sports Center. Defender Joe Greenspan was back from being on loan to the United Soccer League's Pittsburgh Riverhounds.
Greenspan, a center-back, spent eight matches with the Riverhounds, playing every minute, since his April 10 loan. He made the league's Team of the Week twice and helped the Riverhounds to 3-3-2 in that stretch, including four clean sheets.
He actually played his final match with the Riverhounds Wednesday night in Harrisburg, Pa., a three-hour drive from Pittsburgh, and took a 6 a.m. flight back to Minnesota on Thursday morning.
"Very positive stuff," Greenspan said of his time with Pittsburgh. "I was able to help myself individually with playing minutes and everything, and then help them get some good results and put them in a good spot in the table. So I think both sides came out of it pretty happy with how it went."
Greenspan said he just did light regeneration work Thursday and will return to full practice come next week. United coach Adrian Heath said the defender will not be involved in the 7 p.m. Saturday match against Orlando City SC at TCF Bank Stadium.
"I spoke to Pittsburgh yesterday. They've been extremely happy with him," Heath said. "It's been great for him. They want him to go back if and when we feel it's OK. But obviously, we've got the Open Cup game.
"Joe's got a great opportunity to maybe be involved in that game," Heath said of the June 14 matchup at Sporting Kansas City. "And then we'll decide what we need to do after, not only with him, but maybe Collin Martin and Ish [Jome] and people like that, to see if there's a better opportunity for them to go and get some games. Because it's one area, I think, the league's lacking. We can't get enough minutes for the guys that don't play."
But with one or two players in need of rest, Heath said, that Open Cup matchup will likely feature several of United's lesser-used players.
A suspension swerve
A year ago, Major League Soccer suspended Heath, then Orlando's coach, and issued him an undisclosed fine for walking onto the pitch during a match and kicking a stray ball out of the way. Heath did something similar early in the second half of last Sunday's match against Los Angeles, but he didn't endure the same consequences.
"Sometimes, I've been in trouble for the right reasons. Going on two strides to get a ball off the field is a bit unusual," Heath said. "They are being a bit more lenient, so common sense is prevailing, I think."
But Heath said no matter how innocuous the offense, he really does want to avoid any more fines or suspensions.
"I know what the rules are, I've got to start to abide by them."
Own goal firsts
Heath said forward Christian Ramirez's late own goal against the Galaxy that cost United the match last week was a first for him in his 40 years as a player and coach. But that shows the rarity of game-losing own goals.
Ramirez said the two own goals he has scored in the previous two matches were the first in his life. But he's seen the video to figure out what to do differently on set-piece defending and has already forgotten about it.
His teammates, though, are still taking some friendly jabs.
"I have nine goals this year," Ramirez said his teammates tell him, adding his two own goals to his actual seven tally.
Heath said it has been good for the team to take some humor from the cringeworthy situation. He even cracked a joke himself about his leading scorer.
"Let's hope he doesn't make a hat trick of it," Heath said.
A "glimmer of hope"
Forward Abu Danladi, who left the Galaxy match late in the first half with a groin injury, might be back sooner than expected. Heath said at first sign, it looked like the rookie would be out three to four weeks. Earlier this week, he said it would be at least two to three weeks without the rookie. But now, there's a "glimmer of hope" that it might be even earlier than that.
Heath also spoke about the difficulty for players not making the squad right now to hang on to that light-at-the--of-the-tunnel outlook. For example, Bashkim Kadrii hasn't made the team in the past few matches. But Heath said with national team departures coming up and a few players close to suspensions, he needs all those fringe players to stay ready.
Stadium tax breaks almost there
The bill including tax exemptions for Minnesota United's soccer-specific St. Paul stadium passed the House of Representatives on Tuesday night (or really early Wednesday) but didn't make it out of the Senate after a special session Wednesday morning. But later Wednesday, the Senate did pass the bill. Except now it has to go back to the House again before Gov. Mark Dayton can give his approval. So it's possible these tax breaks, which have been caught up in the Legislature for more than a year, might finally be a done deal soon.