Five games into the season, and Minnesota United has its first opportunity to chill.
That break might be coming at the right time.
After a maddening 1-0 loss to Atlanta United on Saturday that sparked team captain Francisco Calvo to shout into the void about wanting more respect from the league, the Loons won’t play again until April 14, at the Portland Timbers.
“I think it’s good,” Calvo said. “We have the free weekend because it’s how it is, not because we want. It’s good for space.”
Calvo was fairly impassioned after the game when he lamented how he feels the league gives more attention to teams like Atlanta and LAFC — big-market teams that draw large crowds with their flashy signings and winning results — and brushes aside the rest. But for the Loons, who are 2-3-0 and just Saturday officially signed their first high-profile designated player in Darwin Quintero, it’s going to take more than a rally cry after a loss to change the overall perception.
So in that way, United will have to wait two weeks before it can do its talking on the pitch. But in the meantime, there’s some self-reflection to do.
“You get right back to work,” winger Ethan Finlay said. “And you’ll want to kind of stay, keep in the same routine. And I think we’ll do that, obviously, this week. We’ll have a pretty normal training week, which I think is important for us. It will be nice to rest the legs a little bit, and not have a full game. But it’s a tough stretch ahead of us. At Portland. At Seattle. Those are going to be two tough games. Both teams really looking for points.”
Calvo said he’s hoping the extra time will give the reserve players some more opportunity to gain match fitness, which will in turn create more competition for spots and push the team forward. Coach Adrian Heath is looking forward to the return of injured players such as outside back Jerome Thiesson, who has missed the past two games with a left hip injury.
“One or two can do with a little bit of a rest. We’ve got one or two that are a little banged up,” Heath said. “For people like Christian [Ramirez], it’ll be good for him to get a couple of weeks. He’s had a bad ankle for a couple of weeks. It will do him good to maybe get a week’s training under his belt and let his ankle settle down a little bit. People like Abu [Danladi] and one or two others, it will give us some time to get some work into them. They haven’t played enough football.”
This will also be a window for integrating Quintero into the team while waiting for his transfer paperwork to clear. Finlay said Quintero surely would have helped in the Atlanta game, as someone who can help attack a team with his one-on-one ability and combination play.
“You’ve seen it in plenty of his highlights where he can break a guy down or break a few guys down. And create for himself, and indirectly create for other guys, create other spaces,” Finlay said. “He’s going to help all of us up front, because he’ll draw a lot of attention. And his quickness and ability to pass and move the ball, I think will open up more spaces for … all the guys up front.
“Continuing to add offensive weapons is important for us. Depth is extremely important. And the more we have to fight for positions week in and week out, the better we will be.”