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The United Beat

Jerry Zgoda writes about Major League Soccer and Minnesota United.

Third-place Loons complete, healthy and with week to prepare for Portland

Back to work after an important 3-1 victory over Real Salt Lake on Sunday, Minnesota United trained lightly in Blaine on Tuesday.

Veterans such as Darwin Quintero, Romain Metanire and Ozzie Alonso among others stretched, ran lightly, watched and/or left the field early in a full week when United doesn’t play again until Sunday at Portland. Those training including players who didn’t play or see much time on the pitch Sunday.

A week without a Wednesday game is welcome, especially with the Loons, in third place in the Western Conference, headed to Portland. United is one point behind second-place Seattle, two points ahead of Real Salt Lake, three ahead of L.A. Galaxy, four ahead of San Jose and five ahead of seventh-place Portland and the final playoff spot.

“It’s a change over to a full week where we can actually prepare and get some work done on the training field,” United coach Adrian Heath said. “It just seems like it has been a game every third or fourth day lately, with the travel, the re-gen, the preparation and so it’ll be nice to get a good week’s training under our belt.”

Heath said his players have come through comeback victory against Real Salt Lake -- after they allowed the first goal – with few knocks.

“Everybody come through OK,” he said.

Heath called it “my decision” not to include newcomer Thomas Chacon and veteran striker Angelo Rodriguez in the 18 players picked to start or sub Sunday and not illness from which Michael Boxall and Kevin Molino played their way through last week.

“As I’ve said, you can only pick 18,” Heath said. “I picked the 18 I thought was best for us. Thomas is a little bit different. He’s still integrating in. We don’t want to overload and overpower him with everything. … It’s hard to throw in and just expect him to go and go and go.

“We want to integrate him gradually and that will be very much until the end of the season. The best is yet ahead for Thomas.”

Heath started striker Mason Toye up top Sunday and played him 68 minutes before Abu Danladi subbed in. Hassani Dotson came on in the 77th minute for Quintero with United leading 2-1.

Both Toye and Dotson each played 45 minutes in the Loons' 2-0 loss at Houston on Sept. 11 after just returning from a demanding U.S. national team Under-23 camp and closed-door game against Japan.

“It was good, it was different,” Toye said. “You were with guys you’ve never played with before, except for Hassani. You’re playing a completely new system and different system than we’ve been accustomed. It was really cool. We were learning stuff new and learning about new guys and really getting to know guys who are pros and who are our age.”

Quintero returns to Loons, Gasper suspended today vs Real Salt Lake

With just five regular-season games left, second place is on the line this afternoon when United and Real Salt Lake play at 4:30 p.m. on a perfect late-summer day at Allianz Field.

United plays without starting left back Chase Gasper, who is suspended today for one too many yellow cards accumulated.

Veteran French defender Wilfried Moimbe-Tahrat will start in Gasper's place.

Loons coach Adrian Heath's lineup also puts star Darwin Quintero back in the starting 11 line on his way back from a hamstring injury, but leaves Thomas Chacon and Angelo Rodriguez out of the 18 in uniform. Miguel Ibarra, Ethan Finlay and Abu Danladi are the substitutes available to come off the bench instead.

Real Salt Lake and Seattle with 46 points each are second and third in the West, one point ahead of United's 45 points. All three teams will have played 29 games so far and each will have four left after all three play today.

Here is United's starting 11 today:

                           23 Mason Toye

     16 Robin Lod   25 Darwin Quintero   7 Kevin Molino

                 8 Jan Gregus   6 Ozzie Alonso

86 Wilfried Moimbe-Tahrat  15 Michael Boxall  3 Ike Opara  19 Romain Metanire

                          1 Vito Manone

Substitutes: Dayne St. Clair, Brent Kallman, Lawrence Olum, Hassani Dotson, Miguel Ibarra, Ethan Finlay, Aby Danladi

Real Salt Lake's lineup:

                            50 Sam Johnson

11 Albert Rusnak   8 Damir Kreilach   7 Jefferson Savarino

             5 Kyle Beckerman    25 Everton Lutz

4 Donny Toia   14 Nedum Onuoha   15 Justen Glad   22 Aaron Herrera

                              18 Nick Rimando

Substitutes: Kelyn Rowe, Luis Arriaga, David Ochoa, Joao Plata, Marcelo Silva, Brooks Lennon, Corey Baird

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