Minnesota United on Friday night played its first of two late-night games in the MLS is Back Tournament, where games start at 9 a.m. and 10:30 p.m. Orlando time in an attempt to beat the Florida summer heat and humidity.
"One of the things this competition has taught us, there's not a normal," Loons coach Adrian Heath said. "It's not normal for players to be getting up at 5:15, 5:30 and having a full meal at 6 o'clock in the morning to play at 9 o'clock in these conditions."
The Loons played Real Salt Lake in their second Group D game in Friday's late game at ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex, where Colorado and Sporting Kansas City played the "early" 8 p.m. game Orlando time. The Loons will play Colorado on Wednesday in their third and final group-play game, also at 10:30 p.m. Eastern.
The team served players their normal three meals on Friday, only a little later in the day than usual. Their postgame meal was scheduled for 1 a.m.
"We spoke to the players," Heath said. "We'll try to keep their routine as regular as possible, but obviously with the sleep situation, certain players like to sleep before the game. It's not ideal to play at 10:30 at night, but everybody has to do it. Some play at 9 in the morning. As I've said before, let's control what we can.
"This is something we knew could happen. We can't change that, as Real Salt Lake can't as well. They're going to get the very same issues that we have. We'll make it as normal as possible as we can."
Filling a need
Heath said he's hopeful the club will finalize a deal to acquire French league veteran left-side defender Bakaye Dibassy in the coming days. He called the 30-year-old who can play left back and left center back a "great utility piece" and "quality addition" at two positions of needed depth for his team.
"It's somebody we've had our eye on for quite a while now," Heath said. "He has bags of experience, very athletic, very similar to [right back Romain] Metanire in terms of the physical tools he has. With Ike [Opara] injured, if we would get another injury at center back, it would leave us really, really short. The fact he can play both positions would be really valuable to us."
MLS rosters are set until tournament's end. The next transfer window starts Aug. 12, one day after the MLS is Back final.
Heath has consistently praised new goalkeeper Tyler Miller, in both the season's first two games in March and now in the season restart. He didn't change after the goal Miller allowed in Sunday's tournament-opening 2-1 comeback victory that allowed Sporting Kansas City's Khiry Shelton an open goal on the short side.
"He made a decision," Heath said. "He thought [Shelton] was going to play it early, and he knew our defender were not close enough to stop the ball. He made a calculated gamble. At that particular time, it didn't come off for him. But in general since he has been with us, I've been more than pleased with everything we thought we were getting and more. A mistake for a goalkeeper generally is costly. That's the nature of their job."