Despite playoff chances being incredibly slim with five matches left in Minnesota United's inaugural MLS season, coach Adrian Heath said Thursday that his players have "everything to play for."
"We've already started planing for next year, so anybody who thinks they haven't got anything to play for may be mistaken," Heath said after training at the National Sports Center. "We're already down the road of working out what we need for next year to make us better, and what I see between now and the end of the season and what I've seen this season will determine the fate of a lot of people."
The Loons will need all players in top form. A 7:30 p.m. match Saturday at the Houston Dynamo leads into a 6 p.m. Tuesday match at Atlanta United FC, which leads into the team's final home match at 7 p.m. Oct. 7 against Sporting Kansas City.
All of this on top of several players departing for national team duty. After the Houston match, midfielder Johan Venegas will join Costa Rica and center back Michael Boxall joins New Zealand. However, center back Francisco Calvo, midfielder Kevin Molino and center back Jermaine Taylor will all stay at least through the Atlanta matchup. It's still to be determined who will be available for the Kansas City game, but all will be back for the Oct. 15 match at the LA Galaxy.
Center back Joe Greenspan was not at practice on Thursday as he has been loaned back to the United Soccer League's Pittsburgh Riverhounds for one match: Saturday's tilt against the New York Red Bulls II. However, Heath said Greenspan will "probably" go back to Pittsburgh after the Kansas City match. Midfielder Sam Cronin was also absent, still dealing with a concussion.
And as far as United mutually parting ways with goalkeeping coach Marius Rovde earlier this week, Heath said he had "no comment whatsoever" about Rovde and was not "ever going to speak about him again."
"But in terms of other people coming in, obviously we are evaluating that position," Heath said of hiring a new goalkeeping coach. He added that he did not expect to fill the spot before this season ends.