Wyatt Omsberg’s learning moment came early on in his rookie year with Minnesota United, by way of starting center backs Francisco Calvo and Michael Boxall leaning into their teaching moment.
“I didn’t go into a tackle super-hard, and I think Calvo or Boxy gave me a good talking to and a good shout,” Omsberg said. “They were like, ‘This isn’t college anymore. You’ve got to go into things hard. You can’t go in easy and soft. You’re not just going to go over people.
“ ‘This is the pros.’ ”
Omsberg, 22, along with fellow rookies forward Mason Toye, 19, and outside back Carter Manley, 22, have just eight games left in their first professional season. Each has seen limited playing time with United and on loan at various United Soccer League teams but said they’re different players from when the Loons drafted them back in January.
The center back will likely have a chance to display his progress in the Loons’ match on Wednesday at D.C. United, with both Calvo and Boxall suspended for the game. Omsberg has played in four MLS games with two starts, most recently June 29. He also had four starts in the USL back in the spring.
“He’s going to have a baptism by fire, again, isn’t he? Every time he seems to play, we say that,” coach Adrian Heath said of putting the rookie into tough road situations. “It’s going to be a big test for him, but we’re confident he’ll be able to handle it.”
Heath said he’s been pleased with the rookies’ progress this year, but laments not giving them enough playing time. While most teams have a USL affiliate or an in-house reserve team, United doesn’t and likely won’t until 2020.
Manley just returned from playing three USL games throughout the past six weeks. He’s played seven games with four starts for United this season thanks to an injury crisis at his position. Toye has played the most first-team minutes with 16 games and two starts, including the most recent game at Sporting Kansas City on Aug. 25. He also scored his first pro goal in one of his three recent USL games.
Heath said how Toye scored that goal proved the extra work after practices the coaching staff has devoted to developing the striker is coming to fruition.
“It makes it look as though we know what we’re doing Monday to Friday,” Heath said.
Those payoffs can be few and far between in a rookie season with scarce playing time. Toye said he’s dealt with some up-and-down emotions while persevering through unpredictable playing time and the immediate feeling of punishment that comes with being sent down to a lower-division league.
Toye said he’s been lucky to have the two other rookies to help him through those discouraging moments. That’s something last year’s rookie Abu Danladi didn’t have with the only other draft pick making it to the roster and being injured the whole season.
“It can be tough, but we’ve had each other to lean on and talk to about what we can do to get better,” said Omsberg, who is also roommates with Manley. “If we’re struggling, just trying to keep our heads up and know that it’s a whole learning process, and especially in your rookie year, just trying to get better. And we’ve all realized that and talked about that.”
Having each other makes it a little easier to accept the club’s preaching of patience to the young players.
“You hear it sometimes from the people around you. But, yeah, you want to be on the field. You want to play,” Manley said. “But I recognize that there’s things that I need to improve on. So I just keep that in mind and focus on improving those things that need work.
“So that I can get to where I want to be.”