The nearly two-week FIFA international break that delayed the start of the MLS playoffs has left coach Adrian Heath perplexed. He wonders why some players, away on national-team duty, won't be back until a few days before the team’s first MLS playoff game at home against the L.A. Galaxy a week from Sunday.
Starting right back Romain Metanire went back to training with his United teammates Thursday during a short two-day work week (they’ll also train Friday before taking the weekend off) and won’t travel halfway away the world to play for his Madagascar team.
But starters or potential starters Jan Gregus, Kevin Molino, Robin Lod, Mason Toye and Hassani Dotson all away playing with national teams. So, too, is midfielder Rasmus Schuller.
Gregus was an unused substitute Thursday in Slovakia’s 1-1 UEFA Euro qualifier against Wales. Molino’s Trinidad and Tobago team played Honduras that night. Gregus’ team plays again on Sunday against Paraguay, Trinidad and Tobago plays again Monday against Venezuela.
Lod’s Finland team plays Saturday and Tuesday before he and Schuller return from Finland. Toye and Dotson are with the U-23 team in Miami in training that ends with a game Tuesday against El Salvador.
For those players who travel overseas and back, Heath wonders why national teams can’t -- in a break like this one -- play games Thursday and Sunday, which would allow six to seven days before they returned to North America to play with their MLS teams.
“I don’t know where it started,” Heath said. “I just don’t get it and that’s not just now. I’ve been saying this for years. You have a two-week gap and sometimes you get your players back on a Thursday morning, Friday sometimes. But, hey, that’s the way the calendar is. There’s not a lot we can do about it other than complain when we get a chance.”’
So he took the opportunity after Thursday’s training to do so.
He is happy, though, to have Metanire in Minnesota to rest and train this week and next.
“Romain’s staying, which is always good,” Heath said. “He’s an important part for us. I’d prefer to have him here.”
Metanire and the other United players not called to national teams will train again Friday in a short work week after getting three days off after the team’s 1-0 loss at Seattle on Sunday that left United with a fourth-place finish in the West.
“We gave ‘em a couple days off, had a nice sharp session [Thursday] morning and tomorrow we’ll work really hard,” Heath said. “Have the weekend off and then a six-day buildup to the Galaxy game.”
“You’ve got the rest of the guys back here, keeping it competitive here but a little light hearted this week,” United midfielder Ethan Finlay said. “Kind of let guys relax and then ramp it up next week. I think you’ll see to see the mentality change come Monday. That’s when you really try to buckle down and start to focus on the L.A. Galaxy 100 percent.”
Heath: “So far, so good” on new Allianz Field grass
The original, damaged grass field at Allianz Field was removed and the field re-sodded last week, giving it two full weeks before next Sunday’s Galaxy game.
“So far, so good,” Heath said. “I think everybody is really pleased with it. I haven’t seen it myself. I’ll probably get a chance the next day or so. From all accounts, everybody is really pleased where we are at this moment.”
How will the weather will be and how will the grass hold up with football and futbol games scheduled on consecutive days Oct. 19 and Oct. 20? St. John’s and St. Thomas play a college football game scheduled for Allianz Field more than a year ago.
“We’ll wait and see how it goes,” Heath said.
Collin Martin endorses Buttigieg for president
United midfielder Collin Martin – the only publicly gay man in U.S. major-league sports – endorsed in social-media postings Wednesday South Bend mayor Pete Buttigieg in his U.S. presidential campaign. Buttigieg is the first gay candidate to run a major campaign for president.
The U.S. Supreme Court this week is hearing two landmark cases concerning LGBTQ rights.
“I’ve always been a man of faith, but growing up as a closeted gay man in the Episcopal Church it was tough to imagine a world where I belonged, let alone a world where I could live my truth,” Martin wrote.
“Athletes like me are told to keep quiet about politics but I refuse to sit on the sidelines when my community is under attack, especially by politicians who use fath as an excuse to discriminate. That’s why I’m proud to endorse Pete Buttigieg for president.
“Pete’s proven that he’s got the experience and ability to communicate his message of unity and inclusion in even the most difficult of spaces.”
Martin held a copy of Buttigieg book “Shortest Way Home” in front of him in the posts.
Buttigieg responded on Twitter, saying “Thank you, Collin. We’re building a movement to meet this moment, and a future where all Americans belong. I’m proud to have you on our team.”
Martin has played in three games this season and, at his request, also has spent time with Hartford in the USL.