A transplanted Englishman, Minnesota United coach Adrian Heath has come to appreciate madness in March, particularly this year, when the NCAA’s Final Four returns to Minneapolis.
“I filled out my bracket,” he said. “I’ve got UNC beating Duke in the final.”
He said he has learned to “love” American college sports after living in Minnesota, Orlando and particularly Austin, Texas, even if many of his players from South America and Europe don’t know about such things.
“The bracket is terrific, excitement for everybody,” Heath said. “I know the players have done theirs. Some of them don’t have a clue. Somebody last year had all the No. 1 seeds going out in the first round. It doesn’t say a lot about their knowledge of the sport.”
Greeting another No. 25, United midfielder Miguel Ibarra made like a fan when he and three teammates brought Timberwolves star Derrick Rose a Loons jersey bearing Rose’s uniform number after Tuesday’s game against Golden State.
Ibarra grew up northeast of Los Angeles and is a lifelong Lakers fan, but he deems his beloved Lakers “terrible” this season even with LeBron James, So he along with Ike Opara, Vito Mannone and Collin Martin chose to see the NBA champion Warriors instead.
They met both Rose and Golden State coach Steve Kerr afterward. Ibarra presented Rose a United jersey with Rose’s surname and No. 25 on the back — the same number United star Darwin Quintero wears.
“I just wanted to meet him because of everything he went through, all his injuries and how he struggled,” Ibarra said. “Everyone thought he’d never come back like he has. He has proven he’s one of the elite players who can come back from what he did. It’s just an inspiring story.”
United, which has a bye this weekend, trained during the week without five players who scattered around the world to play with their national teams. All five — Romario Ibarra, Jan Gregus, Romain Metanire, Rasmus Schuller and Francisco Calvo — are expected back for next week’s game at New England. Quintero also was away this week in Mexico to finalize green card matters.
Some of those five players will meet their team in Massachusetts after each completes his international commitment.
“It’s just a case of keeping your fingers crossed that they all come back healthy,” Heath said. “You don’t know that until after the last game and the next day’s travel. It might be Thursday before we find out who’s available, which is not ideal for preparation. But it’s the same for a lot of teams.”