Minnesota United wasn’t the only set of Loons taking to the pitch Wednesday night.
After United battled with the Houston Dynamo at TCF Bank Stadium, the two squads’ Unified teams — comprised of young athletes with and without intellectual disabilities — also sparred.
These friendly matchups — the teams will meet again when United travels to Houston Sept. 30 — are part of a Major League Soccer Works partnership with Special Olympics. Back on May 24, United’s Unified squad players signed special two-match contracts and have since had the chance to attend team practices, meet players, tour the team’s facilities and go on team bonding outings to a Twins game and the Minnesota Zoo this week.
United sporting director Manny Lagos said the main goal for this Unified team is to have fun.
“The impressions you make in sports are there all the time. It’s for kids to dream,” Lagos said. “I just think it’s so cool that we added new members to our club who are all still dreaming about playing this sport. … It’s a nice reminder of why sports have such positive qualities for everybody in this community.”
United was again without its new international signings, Scottish winger Sam Nicholson and New Zealand defender Michael Boxall against Houston. The pair also missed the friendly this past Saturday against Atlas FC because their visas and international transfer certificates still were pending.
While the two missed practice Tuesday to fly to Canada and sort out their visas, they still are figuring out their passports. The club expects them to return to Minnesota on Thursday and be available for Saturday’s 3 p.m. game against the New York Red Bulls.
No All-Star Loons
In its inaugural season, United won’t have any representatives at the 2017 MLS All-Star Game against Spanish powerhouse Real Madrid C.F. set for Aug. 2 at Soldier Field in Chicago. A fan vote and picks from All-Star and Chicago Fire head coach Veljko Paunovic and Commissioner Don Garber set the roster.
United wasn’t the only MLS team left without an All-Star. Only 13 of 22 teams made the cut, with the most All-Stars coming from home team and league-leading Chicago, which has four representatives. Fellow expansion side Atlanta United FC has three, as do FC Dallas and Toronto FC.