Minnesota United players felt closer to normal Wednesday when they held their first full team training session in Blaine since the coronavirus pandemic put their season on hold three months ago.
In barely three weeks, they’ll resume their suspended season in next month’s “MLS is Back” tournament in Orlando.
Isolated at home for two months before MLS allowed first individual and then small-group training, the Loons were cleared last week for full team training. The approval required that players, coaches and staff undergo testing for the virus that shuttered the league in March after teams had played just two games.
Loons midfielder Jan Gregus underwent a blood test and nasal-swab test Monday. He was swabbed again Tuesday in nasal testing he said he expects will continue every other day. Minnesota United is responsible to arrange and pay for testing before the team departs for Orlando late this month. MLS will be responsible for it when all 26 teams arrive for the monthlong tournament that starts July 8.
The Loons will play their first game July 11, goalkeeper Tyler Miller said after Wednesday’s training.
Gregus called testing “obviously necessary” and termed Tuesday’s nasal swabbing “pretty uncomfortable” compared to Monday’s tests.
“It’s like, ‘Just one second and it is done almost,’ ’’ he said. “But it’s not nice when he’s touching your brain with a stick. You put your head back and they put the thing in, but it’s OK.”
Gregus said he tested negative and hasn’t fallen ill during the past three months.
“It’s better to be safe than sorry,” he said.
Gregus and most of his teammates played short-sided games at the National Sports Center in their first workout that allowed some scrimmaging.
“Everyone was buzzing,” Miller said. “You just saw it in their faces, reacting, getting to be a full team again.”
Striker Luis Amarilla, far from his home in Paraguay, called Wednesday’s training “very fun,” “really intense” and “great practice” after the months since the last relatively normal session.
“We were able to return as a full group after a long time,” Amarilla said in Spanish through an interpreter. “Glad to be back and for what’s coming.”
Loons players are required to wear a face mask coming and going from the practice field, but not while training on it. They’re urged by medical staff to wash their hands thoroughly and often. They also have their temperature taken regularly and now can use their indoor facilities with appropriate physical distancing.
“In a few days, it will be pretty much like it was before,” Gregus said.
Wednesday’s session was the next step toward that.
“It’s obviously hard times for everybody from the club, from the society and the city,’’ Gregus said. “There has been so much going on lately, it was nice to feel that freedom again and start the routine again. Hopefully, it will continue like this and everything will be fine.”
Season ticket update
The Loons notified season-ticket members that ticket prices be flat for 2021 and offered options to renew tickets for next season, which could be the next time the team plays at Allianz Field.
Those options include rolling over their 2020 balance to 2021 with 12 monthly payments due starting Aug. 1; renewing their tickets for 2021 with an alternative payment arrangement, applying their credit differently or seeking a refund; auto-renewing by taking no action, or canceling their tickets.
The team will donate a ticket to front-line health workers for season-ticket holders who roll over their balance; it also offers them a $25 bonus benefit for merchandise or food/beverage per seat. Season-ticket members have until July 31 to make changes or opt out.
If the team plays with fans at Allianz Field in the 2020 season, season-ticket members get first access to tickets.