A knee injury sidelining Minnesota United FC defender Kevin Venegas means the club must find the right man to play right back.
Venegas, tied for first in the North American Soccer League with six assists, underwent successful surgery Friday to repair a left meniscal injury sustained during Wednesday’s international friendly against AFC Bournemouth.
Venegas will miss Saturday’s home match against Fort Lauderdale but is expected to return before the fall season ends in October.
“Certainly he’s a big loss,” coach Carl Craig said. “He’s a hell of an athlete, and his technique is first class.”
Craig said options include shuffling the lineup and bringing in a player on loan. Norbert Csiki and Christoffer Nogueira, the two players on trial who saw second-half action against Bournemouth, are midfielders.
“We’ll miss him for sure,” said Justin Davis, who plays opposite of Venegas at left outside back. The duo provides an offensive presence from the back line few NASL teams can match. “With him being out, maybe it goes on me a little bit more to have to provide that offensive spark. But I think we’ve got enough threats up front where if we do have to play someone who is more defensive-minded, it’s not going to kill us.”
Change in goal?
Sammy Ndjock’s own goal seen ’round the world could earn him a spot on the bench Saturday for the first time this season.
Craig said he is “is having some considerations” about sitting Ndjock, who has played in all 1,170 minutes of action in 13 matches this season. Ndjock was not made available for comment Friday.
“There are guys in the wings and it should be expected that you can’t just rest on your laurels and think, ‘Well, it doesn’t matter how I perform. I’m going to get in next week,’ ” Craig said. “You get too comfortable and you get errors like we got the other day.”
Backup Steward Ceus made his Minnesota debut in goal during the second half against Bournemouth and showed well.
“He’s got a good pedigree and bags of experience,” Craig said. “Sammy’s had the No. 1 shirt and Stew has had to wait and wait for an opportunity. [Saturday] might be that opportunity.”
Video of Ndjock inexplicably throwing a ball into the Loons’ net during Wednesday’s match went viral. The club poked fun of the miscue by releasing a video Thursday where Ndjock is seen getting jelly all over his gloves in the locker room before the match. Not everyone laughed.
“I understand people make mistakes and I understand it’s a friendly, but I don’t think we should make light of the situation,” Davis said. “Sammy’s made some great saves for us. He’s also made a few mistakes that have cost us. So he does need to sharpen up those things a little bit. It’s not the end of the world for him. He’s going to come back and he’s going to redeem himself.”
Making a difference
Ceus already has a fan club. A U-12 girls team from Haiti attended Friday’s practice. They are playing in the Schwan’s USA Cup youth soccer tournament through the Haitian Initiative, a group started in 2011 by St. Paul native and former Major League Soccer player Tony Sanneh.
Ceus, who played for the Haitian national team, posed for pictures and signed items.
“It was a special day,” Ceus said. “The kids knew me and looked up to me a little bit. They were extremely excited, and I really enjoyed taking pictures with them and talking with them. I hope the experience keeps them excited about soccer in Haiti because it’s come a long way and it’s continuing to build.”