Three days after canceling a friendly against Columbus Crew SC because of COVID-19 concerns, Minnesota United’s Wednesday morning scrimmage against Chicago ended at halftime when heavy rain fell in Orlando.
Before it did, the Loons starters played 45 minutes in preparation for Sunday’s “MLS is Back” tournament opener against Sporting Kansas City that will restart their 2020 season four months after it was suspended by the viral pandemic.
With the Loons playing without defensive midfielder and captain Ozzie Alonso and 2019 MLS Defender of the Year Ike Opara, Chicago scored twice, the first time on a 30-yard volley in the opening minute.
Alonso was held out because of what Loons coach Adrian Heath called a “slight” tight hamstring that probably wouldn’t have kept him out if it were a regular-season game. Opara remains in Minnesota for rehabilitation with what he had tweeted is a pre-existing condition that prevents him from joining his teammates sequestered at an Orlando resort hotel for now.
Heath praised his team’s dominant ball possession and called its defense “decent” despite two goals allowed from distance.
“Some pleasing moments,” Heath said. “We feel we benefited. I would have preferred to have left the starting group on for maybe another 20, 25 minutes. That wasn’t possible due to the weather.”
Chicago was scheduled as Wednesday’s opponent after its game scheduled for later that night was postponed when five Nashville players tested positive for the virus. The Loons scrimmaged eight against eight Sunday evening when their scrimmage was scrapped after a Columbus player tested positive.
Second-year Loon Hassani Dotson played Wednesday alongside veteran midfielder Jan Gregus with Alonso out. Heath plugged veteran center-back Jose Aja into Opara’s spot next to Michael Boxall.
“I feel we worked pretty well together today,” Boxall said. “He has done really well. As long as we communicate properly, that’s the biggest issue with any center-back pairing.”
Waiting for Chacon
Heath started midfielders Robin Lod, Kevin Molino and Ethan Finlay behind striker Luis Amarilla. The tournament’s five-substitution rule could mean some time for Uruguayan teenager Thomas Chacon, who has been a reserve since he signed last August.
“[Chacon’s] waiting for his opportunity and his opportunity will come,” Heath said. “It might be the perfect time to throw him on with tired legs out there and see what he can do. His opportunities will come and then it will up to him to play well. If he impresses you enough, then you start considering him to start.”
Former Loons Francisco Calvo, Wyatt Omsberg and Bobby Shuttleworth all are on Chicago’s roster.
“They spent good money, and they look a far different outfit than they previously did when we played them,” Heath said.