After Minnesota United’s 2-2 draw at the Colorado Rapids seven weeks ago, forward Abu Danladi approached a frustrated Marc Burch on Colorado’s bench. The rookie, having completed his first professional minutes, wanted to apologize for fouling the veteran defender.
Little did they know they’d be teammates just two weeks later.
When United (1-4-2) plays Colorado (1-3-1) again at 5 p.m. Sunday at TCF Bank Stadium, it will have been about three weeks since the March 31 transaction that sent Colorado’s Burch and captain Sam Cronin to United in exchange for midfielders Mohammed Saeid and Josh Gatt. And what the left back and holding midfielder have brought to the team in their two matches so far cannot only be seen on the stat sheet but also felt in the atmosphere of the team.
“Adding two really good experienced players has contributed to that in a bunch of ways, and that’s part of what we’re doing: We want to get better on the field. We also want to keep adding better players to make the squad deeper and more competitive,” assistant coach Mark Watson said.
“These guys have been around the league a long time. They’ve got hundreds of games under their belt. And their influence has been felt in many ways, not just by the performance but all the other intangibles as well.”
Since the duo arrived, United has given up just four goals in two matches, much better than the 20 goals allowed in the Loons’ first five. While the two can’t take all the credit for that defensive improvement, their leadership has certainly seemed to help.
Now, though, Cronin and Burch have the somewhat strange situation of meeting their former team just weeks after leaving.
“It’s weird playing them so soon,” said Burch, who is dealing with a groin injury. “Three weeks ago, I was living there and talking to these guys in the locker room, and it’s definitely different.”
Cronin said he’ll share his familiarity with Colorado’s roster with his new team because he “knows those players inside out” and wants to give United “every advantage.”
United coach Adrian Heath said there’s really nothing like playing against a former team.
“As a player, you just want to do well and show that they maybe shouldn’t have done the trade,” Heath said. “And I’m sure [Colorado’s] staff will be hoping that [Burch and Cronin] don’t have exceptional games at the weekend because it is one of them things that when you do trade players or you leave players out, it can come back and haunt you at times.
“That’s going to be the same for us [with Gatt and Saeid].”
Burch, though, said after playing for six MLS teams in his 12-year career, he doesn’t really need any added motivation.
“I could probably make up a story line for every team that we go up against of why I want to beat them,” he said. “Is it a person? Is it a coach? Is it the fans? Is it my old team? I mean, I have some old teams in this league.
“I just always want to win every time I step on the field.”