Minnesota United’s hero on Saturday, Aaron Schoenfeld, is set to start Wednesday’s home game not because of his stoppage-time goal that won at FC Cincinnati, but because of an unusual condition in last month’s trade that brought starting striker Kei Kamara from Colorado.
As part of that deal, the Loons agreed Kamara won’t play when his new team meets his former one Wednesday at Allianz Field.
Loons coach Adrian Heath called it a “gentlemen’s agreement” that is most unusual in American pro sports, but not in European or English soccer.
“In Europe, it’s a very, very common thing,” Heath said. “A lot clubs during the season will ask that you don’t play against their old club. I don’t think it’s allowed contractually, but obviously when you’re trying to take somebody’s player, you’re in their hands a little bit.”
That gentlemanly thing only goes so far, though: If the teams meet in the MLS Cup playoffs, Kamara will play.
His 130 career goals — one of them on a penalty kick with his new team — are 33 behind all-time leader Chris Wondolowski and three behind Jaime Moreno in fourth place.
“It was something I felt was worth the gamble of us doing,” Heath said in a Tuesday video call with reporters. “I have not really come across it before in MLS, but certainly in Europe it’s a very common things that happen.”
That provision between teams will make Schoenfeld a starter again for the first time since he played 71 minutes to give Kamara some rest in a 2-2 draw at Nashville SC.
His team is unbeaten in its past five games — two victories, three draws — with four scheduled games remaining before MLS’s “Decision Day” finale on Nov. 8.
Schoenfeld scored Saturday’s pinball winning goal, finishing off a corner kick that Loons defender Michael Boxall deflected from near the left post off the right post and the ball went directly to Schoenfeld in the congested 6-yard box. His right-footed first touch controlled the ball, his powerful second touch went through the goalkeeper’s legs and into the goal just before game’s end.
He was mobbed by teammates Bakaye Dibassy and Chase Gasper while Boxall celebrated flat on his back on the artificial-turf field.
“It’s never easy when you’re the next one up as a center forward because no matter what you do, it’s very difficult to replicate match-day situation within training,” Heath said. “That sharpness only comes in the cut and thrust of being in games. But he has worked really, really hard. He’s a great kid. He’s a great teammate and you saw his teammates’ reaction when he scored.
“That speaks volumes about what a player means to the rest of the group when that player gets something to go for them when they know they’ve been on the outside all season.”
Colorado’s 4-0 loss at Sporting Kansas City on Saturday was its first game in more than a month after seven were postponed when at least 18 staff members and players within the team tested positive for COVID-19.
The Loons themselves had two games postponed — one that might not be rescheduled before regular season’s end — after star playmaking midfielder Emanuel Reynoso and defender Jose Aja tested positive and another player’s test came back false positive.
Sporting Kansas City scored all of its four goals in the second half against a Colorado team coached by Robin Fraser that hadn’t played since Sept. 23.
“They’ve obviously had a difficult time of it of late,” Heath said. “We empathized with them because there but for the grace of God could go us or one or two other clubs. We’re aware of that. It has not been easy for Robin and his staff, but getting the 90 minutes under their belt against such difficult competition on the road certainly will help them better prepare for the game tomorrow certainly.”