Minnesota United will meet former captain Francisco Calvo on Saturday when the Loons travel to the Chicago Fire’s SeatGeek Stadium.
“We know he’s looking forward for that game,” midfielder Miguel Ibarra said after the Loons trained Tuesday at the National Sports Center in Blaine. “So we’ve got to be ready.”
Calvo, a Costa Rica native, played the last 11 minutes in his Chicago debut last Saturday. After the game he told reporters that Loons coach Adrian Heath “threw me in the trash as if I were a rookie,” in a translation from Spanish (“me tiró a la basura como si fuera un rookie”).
United traded the veteran defender to the Fire on Friday in exchange for at least $400,000 in allocation money. Calvo, who was team captain for over two years and played 60 games in a Loons uniform, had not returned to the gameday lineup since receiving a red card in an April 19 game at Toronto.
Heath responded Tuesday to Calvo’s postgame remark, saying, “It is what it is. He’s obviously disappointed, but as I said, and I’ll repeat: I don’t make any decisions on individuals. This is for the benefit of the group. That decision was made for the benefit of all this group.”
Calvo’s tone toward United was warmer on Friday, when he used his Twitter page to express appreciation of the team and its fans. Calvo scored five goals in his career with the Loons and has been known for his candor. Last year he criticized what he felt was a lack of league respect given to the Loons.
Heath said midfielder Ozzie Alonso, who joined United before this season, has stepped up as a captain “without an armband.” Alonso had been captain of the Seattle Sounders, with whom he won an MLS Cup in 2016. Heath said defender Ike Opara and midfielder Jan Gregus also have taken leadership roles with Calvo gone.
“Not just on the field with their performances, but their personality in the locker room, their desire and willingness to want to put themselves out there for the rest of their teammates,” Heath said. “All the good things you look for in a professional.”
The Loons have two draws and one victory since they lost to Toronto, and have given up one goal in that three-game stretch of games at Allianz Field. Opara scored his first goal of the season and the first of the game Sunday in a 1-1 tie with Seattle. United has a 1-0-3 record at its new home.
The Loons held LA Galaxy scoreless in the game Calvo had to sit out for the red card violation. Heath kept the same lineup against D.C. United, which Minnesota United won 1-0. The Loons had allowed 15 goals through its first seven games.
“The important thing for us the last couple games has really been everyone’s working together as a unit,” said defender Eric Miller. “Everyone’s on the same page. Everyone’s doing the little things that they need to do.”
United is in sixth place in the Western Conference with a 4-3-3 record. Chicago is 10th in the Eastern Conference with a 2-4-4 record. The Fire’s top goal scorer is forward CJ Sapong with four.
Jack Warrick is a University of Minnesota student on assignment for the Star Tribune.