Gone to Europe and already back these past five days since Minnesota United last played a game, veteran midfielder Jan Gregus said Friday he’s long past jet lag.
“One day, you’re waking up in the middle of the night, but the next day you’re fine already,” Gregus said. “I’m ready to go.”
Gregus was the first of six Loons to return after being called to play for their national teams during a nine-day FIFA international break scheduled this year, which came between MLS’s season-ending “Decision Day” and Saturday’s start of the MLS Cup playoffs.
Gregus didn’t play for his Slovakia national team in a 1-1 UEFA Euro qualifying draw with Wales, then played the first half against Paraguay while he was away.
Teammates Robin Lod and Rasmus Schuller played for Finland, Kevin Molino for Trinidad and Tobago and Mason Toye and Hassani Dotson went back to camp with the U.S. Under 23 team in Miami.
United coach Adrian Heath declared everybody — including those six — present and healthy Friday for his team’s first MLS playoff game, Sunday against L.A. Galaxy.
“We’ll have everyone available, which is nice at this stage of the season,” Heath said.
Sunday’s game will be an introduction for both Gregus and Lod to something they’ve never known in European leagues: something called playoffs.
“Well, it’s a little Final,” Gregus said, referring to tournaments played for trophies within and around European league’s regular season. “Now we’re in playoff, and we know what it means. Everybody wants to win these types of games. We are no different. We’re prepared well, like it’s a Final.”
Heath intended to check out Allianz Field’s newly re-sodded grass this week, but settled for photos and countless texts from the head groundskeeper instead.
When asked what reports he received, Heath said, “A lot better than was expected. You’re always worried when it’s been put down and it’s still so new. They actually laid it in a different way, with different machines that make it compact earlier and quicker. So hopefully, I don’t think it’ll be much worse than the last game we played at home.”
St. Thomas and St. John’s play a football game on it Saturday afternoon. Sunny and dry weather is forecasted.
“If it’s like this and it’s dry, I don’t think it’s going to affect it too much,” Heath said on a sunny Friday.
Back in Minnesota with teammate Hassani Dotson from U.S. Under-23 camp since Wednesday, Toye played the part of towering L.A. Galaxy star Zlatan Ibrahimovic during training Friday in Blaine.
“I walked around on my toes a little bit, trying to be taller,” Toye said. “I needed three or four more inches, probably four.”
It’s the thought that counts
United promoted Vito Mannone — the favorite to win the Allstate MLS Goalkeeper of the Year award that will be named Thursday — with a “Vito’s Clean Sheet Pizza” box the Loons sent to media members in a campaign to get their candidate’s support for MLS postseason awards.
“It’s a good memory to have,” Mannone said. “Years forward when I retire, I will have this nice pizza box with a clean sheet right on top of it. It’s beautiful.”
Mannone when asked if he has found in Minnesota any pizza that would be considered authentic back home in Italy: “Yeah, well, the one in my house is very authentic.”