When center back Michael Boxall heard the news after Minnesota United’s 3-2 victory against Portland on Saturday that his teammates Fernando Bob and Maximiano would both miss the next game with suspensions, his reaction was pretty apt.
He cut himself off to keep from cursing and instead assessed the midfielders who will take up those spots this coming Saturday against New York City FC.
Bob and Maximiano, both Brazilians, have only played together for the past three games. But for a team that has struggled to find just one solid No. 6 this season, having two seemed to really make an impact.
“It’s very important for a team to have midfielders of the quality of Fernando Bob and Maximiano,” winger Romario Ibarra said in Spanish through a translator. “They’re very technical, take the ball away from the opposition a lot and play into the forwards frequently, too. They’re two very important players who help Darwin [Quintero] and I play better.”
It’s been their most consistent playing time in quite a spell. Maximiano has played in nine games this season, but his appearances have been sporadic as he dealt with rehabilitating a torn ACL from a year ago back to full strength. Bob, who joined United just a month ago, hadn’t played competitive soccer since November 2017 because of an injury and contract negotiations with his former team.
Maximiano is on loan through this season, and the club will soon have to decide whether to keep him on full time. Bob has to prove he’s worth a starting spot, and he seems to be doing that so far.
Coach Adrian Heath praised both midfielders’ play against Portland. Team captain Francisco Calvo said they’re both good on the ball and off it. Boxall called Bob “outstanding” and one of the Loons’ best players against Portland.
“They’ve been fantastic, the way they get around the pitch and screen in front of us,” Boxall said. “Especially Fernando, he is so comfortable on the ball, he can get us out of pressure in so many situations.”
Bob also helped set up United’s first goal against Portland with a long lob over the opposing defense to Quintero.
Bob’s suspension stemmed from a red card late in the game. Maximiano is suspended for yellow card accumulation.
Luckily for the Loons, filling behind them won’t be too much of a head-scratcher. Rasmus Schuller started against Portland in a more high-up and wide role. Ibson had been a lock starter until Bob and Maximiano earned their chances. Collen Warner also stepped in with Ibson and Schuller when the team ran a 3-5-2 formation to much success.
Calvo called the midfield a strong position for the team with many options. The game at 7 p.m. Saturday at TCF Bank Stadium could give Ibson and Warner a chance to prove they should not have been put on the bench in the first place.
“One or two people that have been knocking on my door, telling me they should be in the team,” Heath said. “Next week, they’ll get to show me.”