Two months after he returned from extended leave with his Madagascar national team, Minnesota United’s starting right back is back.
Or at least Romain Metanire was Sunday, in an important 3-1 victory over Real Salt Lake at Allianz Field.
He didn’t play for United from June 2 until July 20 while he led Madagascar to the African Cup of Nations quarterfinals. Even upon his return, he wasn’t the same force he had been. That is until Sunday, when he made the hustle play that saved the ball along the sideline and created Darwin Quintero’s eventual winning goal early in the second half. Then he sent the crossing pass that Ethan Finlay converted for an insurance goal in the 83rd minute.
United coach Adrian Heath said Metanire returned in July “extremely tired, not only physically but mentally.”
“It was an incredible run for the country,” Heath said. “I’m sure it took its toll. When he’s back to his best, like he was today, he’s something to play against.”
Teammate and fellow defender Ike Opara said “it has been awhile” since Metanire played a game like that.
“Romain really changed the game, just with pure willingness and hustle and desire,” Opara said. “You can’t teach that. It won’t show up in the boxscore. But that was unbelievable.”
Flying their flag
Some United supporters in the standing section for a time Sunday waved anti-fascist “Iron Front” banners/flags, a display the MLS’ fan code of conduct considers political and thus banned.
The Wonderwall umbrella group that represents the Loons’ varied supporters groups met with team officials last week and the team clarified fans could display the symbol associated with the Antifa movement — three arrows pointing down to the left — on clothing and insignia, but not on larger flags and banners.
A United official said one person was removed from Allianz Field on Sunday because of the Iron Front matter, and two others were removed because of derogatory language. MLS officials are scheduled to meet the International Supporters Council and Seattle and Portland supporters group Thursday to discuss the issue.
Gutting it out
Veteran defender Michael Boxall played all 90 minutes Sunday and midfielder Kevin Molino the first 67, even though both played after falling ill this past week.
“For those guys to gut through it, that was big for us,” Opara said. “That bug has been going around the whole team the past week or two. Unfortunately, they got it. But to fight through it and be productive and not just be out there, it is impressive.”
• United starting left back Chase Gasper served a one-game suspension Sunday for too many yellow-card accumulations and was replaced by veteran French defender Wilfried Moimbe-Tahrat. “He’s experienced, he knows what his role is,” Heath said about Moimbe-Tahrat. “I was pleased with him.”
• Striker Angelo Rodriguez and newcomer Thomas Chacon were not among the 18 chosen by Heath as either a starter or substitute.
• Sporting director Manny Lagos presented retired United midfielder Sam Cronin with a team autographed jersey before the game.