Minnesota United finalized its roster for Friday's season opener at Seattle with one that included two-time MLS Defender of the Year Ike Opara.
The Loons also opened two international roster spots after they loaned out New Zealander Noah Billingsley and Uruguayan Thomas Chacon and classified midfielder Jan Gregus a U.S. permanent resident when he received his U.S. green card.
Opara, 32, signed a new multi-year contract after he was named 2019 MLS Defender of the Year. A 12-year veteran with a history of concussions, he has played just two games since then, at last season's end.
According to MLS rules, the Loons could have bought out his contract at their own expense during the offseason and by doing so freed his salary on their salary-budget space. They cannot do the same during the season.
"I'll wait until we get back and see how he is," coach Adrian Heath said. "At the moment, he's still on our roster. Hopefully, we can get him fit and we can get him on the field, which would be nice for everybody."
Gregus' green card allows the Loons to add two more international players. They have targeted French first-division striker Adrien Hunou as a possible Designated Player signing and Argentine attacking left wing Franco Fragapane.
St. Clair starts
Heath on Wednesday said he had picked Friday's starting goalkeeper, but he wasn't telling. He went with young Dayne St. Clair, who finished as the starter for last season's final three months for injured veteran Tyler Miller. St. Clair last month played World Cup qualifying games with Canada's national team.
Heath also started Robin Lod up top in as a "false" No. 9 striker and placed Hassani Dotson, back from Mexico and Olympic qualifying, next to star Emanuel Reynoso and vet Ethan Finlay. Brent Kallman started at center back with Michael Boxall for Bakaye Dibassy, who missed Friday's game because of a lingering thigh injury.
Waiting for Wanchope
Newly acquired Argentine striker Ramon "Wanchope" Abila was among Friday's substitutes, a group that also included veterans Juan Agudelo and Jukka Raitala and first-round picks Justin McMaster and Nabi Kibunguchy.
"He has not played a lot of football," Heath said about Abila by video call Wednesday. "The last thing we want to do is start and risk him."
While the U.S. Open Cup committee said Friday that the event won't be played with modified qualifying starting next month as planned, the CONCACAF Champions League has five MLS teams left in the quarterfinals of a tournament that has been dominated by Mexican clubs.
"We're getting closer every year," Heath said. "I honestly believe we're not far away. Is it going to be this year or not? I don't know, but it's no foregone conclusion anymore who will win."
Canceled because of COVID-19 in 2020, the U.S. Open Cup still could be played in some form later this year. Atlanta United remains champion after beating the Loons in the 2019 final.
• Seattle star midfielder Nicolas Lodeiro (quad strain) and midfielder Jimmy Medranda (hamstring strain) didn't play. Missing, too, was Sounders star Jordan Morris, who suffered a season-ending knee injury in February while on loan to Swansea City in England's second division.
• Friday was sunny and warm in Seattle, which so often is gloomy and rainy. Temperature was 73 degrees at kickoff, 6:55 p.m. Pacific time.