Minnesota United’s two games postponed because of coronavirus testing has put completing its full 23-game revised regular season in danger.
It also has provided the injury-ravaged Loons time to heal and time for starting midfielder Jan Gregus to travel to Europe and back on Slovakia national team duty.
Captain and defensive midfielder Ozzie Alonso hasn’t played since he left a Sept. 7 home game against Real Salt Lake clutching his hamstring after 18 minutes, but “he’ll be in the squad” for Sunday’s home game against Houston, Loons coach Adrian Heath said Saturday.
Heath said Sunday’s game will be played after his team’s previous two games were postponed, provided all testing for COVID-19 comes back negative before that.
“We’re fully expecting them to come back negative and get on with the game tomorrow,” Heath said.
Veteran midfielder Ethan Finlay has had nearly two weeks to recover from playing a full 90 minutes Oct. 6 at Nashville, which was his first game back from September knee surgery.
And Gregus was back in Minnesota late Thursday, just one day after he played his third and final game for his country in 2021 Euro qualifying and Nations League play. Heath once worried Gregus would miss as many as six MLS games in October, but Gregus is expected to miss only two if he completes a quarantine period and plays again as early as Saturday at FC Cincinnati.
“It has certainly helped them three individuals,” Heath said. “We’ll see if it has affected the rest of the group.”
Could it be something of a silver lining?
“If we can fit all the games in,” Heath said. “But I think it will be extremely difficult the way the league is going to get everybody a full complement of games played. But certainly it has given us a few more days.”
Heath said there likely is a makeup date that both his team and Chicago can agree upon to finally play Wednesday’s game. But he said rescheduling the Dallas game “is proving a little bit more tricky. The slot we have available, they haven’t got available.”
Heath said his team has fully trained only once since that game at Nashville nearly two weeks ago because of two players’ confirmed positive tests that postponed last Sunday’s game at FC Dallas. A suspected positive test on another player proved negative Thursday, but not until after it caused Wednesday’s home game against Chicago to be postponed.
“We obviously had to err on the side of caution,” Heath said. “In hindsight, we could have played probably [on Wednesday] because they all came back negative. But you can’t do that. You’re trying to look after the players, look after the opposition players and everybody else. So it was a bit frustrating.”
Heath said all three players — including the one with the suspected positive test that turned out negative — won’t be available to play Sunday night against Houston at Allianz Field. One of the three is injured, Heath said.
He has canceled training sessions and held Saturday’s training in small groups in an attempt to minimize exposure to the virus.
“We trained in groups of five, which the day before a game is never ideal,” Heath said. “But we have to get on. We can’t use it as an excuse. We are looking forward to playing again. These are hurdles we have to overcome. We can’t use them as an excuse because guess what? We’re playing a game tomorrow. We have three really important points to play for, against a Western Conference rival.
“So it’s important we go and get a result.”