Minnesota United’s 1-0 loss at Sporting Kansas City on Sunday was its sixth game in 24 days during this MLS regular-season restart.
Now the Loons will have five days off before they begin a three-game stretch in nine days — starting Saturday at Houston, the first of two more road games — in a season suspended for four months by the coronavirus pandemic.
The pause until Saturday can’t come soon enough for a Loons team that for its last game already was missing injured captain Ozzie Alonso, strikers Luis Amarilla and Aaron Schoenfeld, midfielder Ethan Finlay as well as goalkeeper Tyler Miller and defender Ike Opara.
Most will remain out at least for the next few weeks and Miller for the rest of the season.
During the game Sunday, coach Adrian Heath measured minutes for five starters because of assorted knicks and the demanding schedule. He kept attackers Emanuel Reynoso, Robin Lod and Kevin Molino out of the starting 11 and brought all three — including Reynoso and his sore groin — into the game as second-half subs.
He also gave ironman left back Chase Gasper the first half off while newcomer Bakaye Dibassy started his first MLS game at Gasper’s position.
The Loons were outplayed, outshot 7-0 on target and ultimately outscored after Sporting Kansas City winger Johnny Russell’s disputed, video-reviewed goal in the 80th minute.
“This week will be good,” Heath said. “Hopefully, we can get some recuperation in the guys and get them a little bit healthier ... The way that it has been — what is it, six games in 23 days and more games coming up after — we’ve got a week’s rest now that a few of them players need.”
Heath’s team lived in a protective bubble for nearly six weeks starting in late June and played six games in the Florida summer heat in that time. Then it played three home games and three road games in these past 24 days ending Sunday.
Veteran center back Michael Boxall points to the Loons’ long list of injured as proof of the revised schedule’s demands.
“You look at our injured list and you see what has happened,” he said. “Not only what has happened to our team, but to quite a few teams around the league. It’s the games. It’s the travel. It has taken its toll.”
Boxall needs the rest, and maybe some extra sleep, too, this week.
At 32, he has played 90-plus minutes in all 14 regular-season and in the MLS is Back tournament games. His wife, Libby, gave birth to the couple’s second child, a boy named Beau Beckham Boxall, on Wednesday.
“I’m tired, but battling through,” he said after Sunday’s game. “I’m looking forward to getting home these next few days and having a full week to prepare for the next few games coming up. Us and a lot of other teams need the rest and need to get some of our legs back.”
Heath said his team will consider adding another striker to a roster that currently has only Mason Toye healthy at that position, particularly if Schoenfeld (lower calf) won’t be back by Saturday’s game.
He also has talked to MLS about obtaining its pool goalkeeper or he might seek a keeper for the longer term after backup Greg Ranjitsingh injured his leg last week. Heath doesn’t consider homegrown 16-year-old keeper Fred Emmings ready for MLS action if something should happen to starter Dayne St. Clair.
Heath also said Sunday he would know more upon his return about the team’s talks to loan young Uruguayan midfielder Thomas Chacon back to his Danubio team from which he came last summer so Chacon can get some game action. He has played little so far this season.
He played 14-plus minutes as a second-half sub Sunday in Kansas City.
Chacon is the exception on a team that Heath tried to get some rest on Sunday.
“Kevin, Robin and Reynoso have played a lot of minutes,” Heath said. “We have to protect them. … We can’t keep playing the same group every four days until the end of the season. It’s impossible.”