ORLANDO – Already practically giddy over the five new starters his team has added, Minnesota United coach Adrian Heath's glee isn't limited to those moves made for the now.
His good mood extends toward looking forward with the three players selected in last month's SuperDraft.
He calls seventh overall pick Dayne St. Clair the prototypical goalkeeper of the future and St. Clair's Maryland teammate Chase Gasper — chosen 15th overall after United made a last-minute trade with Chicago to obtain another first-round pick — the most MLS-ready defender in the draft.
And don't forget former Oregon State midfielder Hassani Dotson, whom the Loons plucked in the second round. Heath hasn't.
"I think they've been outstanding, they really have," Heath said. "If they can continue training as well as they have done, maybe they might be a big surprise for us."
Heath has seen more of Gasper and Dotson in training sessions in Blaine, Tucson, Ariz., and Orlando because goalkeeping coach John Pascarella has worked primarily with St. Clair, whose presence is a play for the future now that United has veterans Vito Mannone and Bobby Shuttleworth ahead of him.
St. Clair has the size (6-4), range and the ability to play the ball forward with both feet, all qualities that make Heath and sporting director Manny Lagos wonder just how good he might become.
Now he must learn the pro game.
"I think I have a good understanding," St. Clair said, "but when you take a step up a level it's about learning new things and learning from guys ahead of me and around me as well. It's definitely been a learning process, but I feel like I've made strides and I feel more and more comfortable every day, which is good."
Heath might deem Gasper MLS-ready because of his poise and maturity, at age 23. He moved across country from his Washington, D.C., area home to play at UCLA and then came home again three years later to play at home with Maryland after his father fell seriously ill.
"I haven't seen every defender in the MLS draft play. I just know I'm confident in my ability," said Gasper, a leftfooted left back who likes to get up the field and attack. "To hear the whole coaching staff say that truly is a confidence booster
''… Being on the other side of the country and then dealing with some family issues, I had to mature very quickly. Everything happens for a reason. My dad's healthy, and I'm happy and I definitely learned a lot these last few years."
Heath said Gasper can challenge for a significant role, perhaps even as a starter. He said Dotson "has surprised us all" with his energy, his fitness, athleticism and determination that borders on what Heath calls "a kind of nastiness" of which a team cannot have enough.
Dotson said he has watched and learned since he arrived in Minnesota, particularly from four-time MLS All-Star Ozzie Alonso.
Dotson grew up in a Seattle suburb when Alonso starred for Dotson's hometown Sounders.
"I watched Ozzie growing up," Dotson said, "and now to watch the way he and everyone conducts themselves off the field, all the preparation they do to get themselves right mentally, it's amazing … This is the same game I've always played, but you can never not learn enough. You have to be a student of the game if you want to get better. If you want to get in the starting lineup, you have to take in all the information you can."
• Forward Angelo Rodriguez is not expected to play in Saturday's preseason game against New England in Orlando because of what Heath calls a "slight" groin injury." Heath said he'll look at Romario Ibarra in Rodriguez's spot and likely will try Mason Toye there as well.
"We'll probably err on the side of caution with him," Heath said after Friday's training near Orlando. "He'll probably get more minutes on Wednesday (against New York City F.C.)"
• Veteran defender Michael Boxall's ankle injury is improving and he said he expects to play on Saturday and log more than the 30 minutes he played in the last of three preseason games in Arizona.
"It doesn't take long to catch back up with the team," he said.
• Expect veteran midfielder Ethan Finlay — on the comeback from ACL surgery early last season — to see minutes in these next three preseason games, Heath said. Forward Abu Danladi had an injection to calm ankle inflammation and could see his first preseason action next Saturday against Orlando City.
Heath said the starters will see between 65 and 75 minutes Saturday, a bump from the 45 to 60 they played in the Arizona games.