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Jerry Zgoda writes about Major League Soccer and Minnesota United.

Down two suspended players, Loons await Opara's return

Jack Warrick from our staff covered for me at United training today. Here's his report:.

 

 

United defender Ike Opara participated in part of training Monday and coach Adrian Heath said he is hopeful he will play Wednesday in the Loons’ home game against LA Galaxy.

Opara missed a 4-3 loss to Toronto FC Friday after he banged heads with a New York City FC player the week before and needed seven stitches to close a gash over his eye. Opara felt better during the team's training at the National Sports Center, Heath said.

His return would help the Loons’ depleted roster; midfielder Jan Gregus and defender Francisco Calvo will miss the game Wednesday because of red cards issued near the end of Friday's game.

“Calvo’s was silly,” Heath said referring to his team's captain, who kicked a Toronto's player leg out from under him and left United with just nine players to finish the game. “He gave the referee no alternative really.”

LA Galaxy, led in scoring by forward Zlatan Ibrahimović, is second in the Western Conference standings with a 6-1 record. The teams met March 16 in Los Angeles, with Minnesota United (now 3-3-1) losing 3-2. Ibrahimović did not play because of an injury.

Since then, Ibrahimović has scored seven goals — the second most in the MLS — in five games.

“Certainly we know that if we make the mistakes we have been doing in the last couple of weeks that, inveritably, Zlatan will be in the right spot,” Heath said. “And inveritably, it ends up in the back of the net.”

Collin Martin loaned

United midfielder Collin Martin has been loaned to the Hartford Athletic of the United Soccer League, Heath said.

Martin played in 12 games last season and started five of them, but hasn't played yet this season on a team that remade its roster during the offseason.

Gasper on the way back

Loons rookie defender Chase Gasper also practiced Monday after he was sidelined with a hamstring injury. He is expected to be ready to return to game action by week's end, Heath said.

“We might have lost a couple, but we might get two or three back,” Heath said.

Veteran midfielder Miguel Ibarra missed the last two games because of a hamstring injury, but probably would have played if Friday's game at Toronto had been Sunday. He practiced Monday.

Despite their defensive struggles, United ranks No. 3 in the MLS in goals scored with 17 this season. Only Toronto FC and Los Angeles FC have more.

Settling into Allianz

 Minnesota United returns to its 19,400-seat stadium looking to play better than it did in a fast and sometimes frantic paced 3-3 draw against New York City FC on April 13.

“The initial game at Allianz, maybe a little bit too much adrenaline going and I think it showed itself in the game a little bit,” defender Brent Kallman said. “I think we’ll be a little more composed this time around, and we need to show more discipline.”

And...

Also on Monday, MLS named Toronto FC's Alejandro Pozuelo its Player of the Week last week for his two-goal, one-assist game Friday in a 4-3 victory over United.

United sets July 17 friendly with Aston Villa; Opara unlikely for Friday

News from training today: United announced it will play a July 17 friendly at Allianz Field against Aston Villa, an English second-tier Championship league team that has a rich history in English football and the Premier League..

Also, United veteran defender Ike Opara didn’t train Tuesday and is unlikely to play Friday at Toronto because of a hit to the head and seven stitches needed to close a gash over one eye.

Opara was injured in the 84th minute of a 3-3 tie with New York City FC when he banged heads with Valentin Castellanos when both went to head a ball. He was replaced by Brent Kallman, stitched up and monitored in the following days for signs of a concussion.

“Initially, we don’t feel it’s a concussion,” United coach Adrian Heath said. “He got a bad bang obviously, a bad laceration. His eye is a bit puffy. We’ll see…It’s probably going to be a bit too soon for him this week. We’ll give him every opportunity. It may be a game-day decision. We’ll wait and see.”

United also will play a May 22 friendly against Hertha Berlin, a famed team in the German Bundesliga league and might play one against a South American team in September as well. United CEO Chris Wright calls the scheduling strategically chose to “grow our footprint in the global game.”

He said the July 17 date for Aston Villa – a Birmingham team Wright calls a “big, big brand” in England that might be back in the Premier League by then – was selected specifically because it's in the middle of USA Cup in Blaine, which presents a wide international audience for the game.  

Aston Villa currently is placed fifth in England's Champions League, but is positioned to win its way back to the Premier League by summer. That's the same league from which United acquired goalkeeper Vito Mannone.

Heath played for Aston Villa in the 1989-90 season. The club was founded in 1874 and has played in Villa Park since 1897. It was a founding club of both the Football League in 1888 and the Premier League in 1992.

Tickets to the general public go on sale Thursday, April 25. Season-ticket members, members of the Preserve and newsletter subscriber will get access to presales starting this week. The game is not included in season-ticket packages.

Midfielder Miguel Ibarra returned to training Tuesday after the longtime Loon missed the chance to play in Allianz Field’s debut because of a hamstring injury.

“He trained this morning and we’ll see how he is,” Heath said. “Obviously, he hasn’t done a lot the last seven, eight days. But if he has no complications, he could be available for the weekend.”

And one more thing:

United sent striker Abu Danladi and rookie midfielder Hassani Dotson to their FC Madison affiliate to get some game action in tonight’s friendly against the University of Wisconsin.

Danladi entered Saturday’s game in the 78th minute for Darwin Quintero.

“He’ll go down and get minutes today, which we feel as though he needed. Abu’s got himself back in and we didn’t need him going a couple weeks without playing.”

Heath said Danladi and Doston probably will play 45 to 60 minutes tonight and then returned to United in time to travel to Toronto on Thursday.

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