Of all the times for Minnesota United to be considerably understaffed, this week might be one of the worst.
By the end of this week, the Loons will have played three games in eight days. After a slim 1-0 home victory over Vancouver on Saturday, United flies to LAFC for a Wednesday game before facing San Jose at home on Saturday.
“Obviously, we are in a little bit of a hole at the moment in terms of injuries,” coach Adrian Heath said. “Were we talking about this four weeks ago, saying how well everything was going, we would have no injuries, no muscular injuries. And then four weeks later, we have 11 people down.
“We will reassess what we are going to do. We have an abundance of players in midfield, and I would think we would make one or two changes for the game,” Heath said of addressing the personnel issues. “We don’t get back until late Thursday and have another big game on Saturday. We will have a better idea after training [Sunday] of how everybody feels and how we are. We will probably take every fit player to L.A. and then we’ll see where we are from there.”
The most glaring area of need is at forward. Both Christian Ramirez (hamstring) and Abu Danladi (ankle) are out because of injuries and seem unlikely to play Wednesday in Los Angeles. Rookie Mason Toye, the only other forward on the roster, is suspended for the LAFC game after a red card against Vancouver.
“It is not ideal,” Heath said.
It would seem the only other true attacking player available on offense is winger Frantz Pangop, who is dealing with a rib contusion but was on the bench against Vancouver. So it’s possible he sees his first start on Wednesday.
But whether Heath sticks with his preferred 4-2-3-1 formation and just fields one of his midfielders as a forward, or he retools his lineup into something more like a 4-3-3, certain individual players will have to heft more responsibility. Like winger Miguel Ibarra, who scored the goal against Vancouver and has shown solid chemistry with playmaker Darwin Quintero and winger Alexi Gomez, both new additions.
“There’s a lot [of pressure],” Ibarra said. “But I’m pretty sure we’re going to have people to step up. We have confidence in every single one of them. Right now, we’re short at forward, but hopefully one of them gets healthy and is ready for the next game.”