United’s five new starters are about to make their debut together in Orlando with three preseason games and just two weeks remaining before the season opener at Vancouver.
So now that they’ve added MLS veterans Ozzie Alonso and Ike Opara as well as fellow starters Jan Gregus, Romain Metanire and Vito Mannone from overseas is this the team with which United will start the season? All five could play into the second half in this afternoon’s game against New England.
“Nearly,” coach Adrian Heath said. “We’re always hoping. As long as the window is still open, we hope to do one or two things. We’re not close on anything at the moment. We’ve made one or two inquiries, but nothing as yet.”
Heath said that could change as the opener approaches and teams start to believe their younger players might be able to help more than they thought, which might make a more experienced player available.
“That changes the picture,” Heath said. “I would still think two or three deals will be done before the season. Not for us, but in the league. Normally, people are still trying to do bits and bobs. Someone who is not available now might be in two or three weeks. You have to keep your eye on it, keep looking and see where we are.”
Before Saturday’s game, they signed SuperDraft picks Chase Gasper and Hassani Dotson, a second-round pick, to contracts. Seventh-overall pick Dayne St. Clair previously signed as a Generation Adidas player.
The Loons played three games -- including one against MLS opponent Houston -- in Tucson, Ariz., to start their preseason training and now will play three in a week in Orlando, against the Revolution today, New York City F.C. on Wednesday and Orlando City next Saturday.
“You can tell the fitness levels are better,” Heath said. “These games will be a lot more physical. It’s just the closer you get, all of a sudden now we’re only a few weeks away and you just sense everybody is getting more of their game face on.”
If you’re looking for a live stream online like United carried the final two scoreless games in Arizona on their web site, you won’t find these games, starting with today's 3:30 p.m. Central time start now delayed by about 20 minutes. So follow me on Twitter, on startribune.com and in the paper for coverage these next five days.
Heath said his starting 11 probably will play 65 or 75 minutes into the second half today and a player such as veteran defender Michael Boxall will get more time after he played just 30 minutes in one of the Tucson games because of an ankle injury.
Forward Angelo Rodriguez won’t play today because of what Heath called a “slight” groin problem and he said the team will “err on the side of caution” by playing Romario Ibarra and later in the game Mason Toye in Rodriguez’s place.
“Everybody is ramping up a little bit more,” Heath said. “Players start to understand now we’re getting closer. Everything takes on a little bit more significance. Just the fact they know we’re getting closer to looking at what might be the starting 11, people now understand that.”
Here's how today's lineup looks without Rodriguez available:
Rasmus Schuller, Darwin Quintero, Miguel Ibarra
Jan Gregus, Ozzio Alonso
Francisco Calvo, Michael Boxall, Ika Opara, Romain Metanire