Its preseason preparations nearly completed, Minnesota United left behind three clean sheets against MLS competition in Arizona and Florida ending Saturday. After a few days back in Minnesota, the team next flies Thursday to Vancouver for Saturday’s season opener.
A team that set an MLS record two seasons ago for most goals allowed surrendered just one in four MLS preseason games. It came late in Saturday’s 3-1 closed-door, first-team scrimmage against Orlando City.
Until then, United held scoreless Houston, New England, New York City F.C. as well as USL team Phoenix Rising and Florida International University (in an 80-minute scrimmage).
“Gave up a goal,” Heath said. “It was disappointing because we were comfortable in the game and we got a little sloppy in the last 10 minutes. Our defensive shape was good. Overall, there were a lot of pleasing aspects from preseason.
Heath criticized his team’s performance against New York City, but called its play “excellent” against Orlando, which had won its two Orlando City Invitational games, including a 6-2 victory over New England.
“For us to dictate the game start to finish, they had a good first 10 minutes but after that we dominated the game,” Heath said. “As the game unfolded, there was only one team that was going to win the game. There were a lot of positive in terms of certain things we’ve been training to work on, stuff in transition, can we get in (defensive) shape quicker? A lot of those things came to fruition Saturday.”
Heath talked all preseason about preparing with purpose, with the season opener in mind. United sent assistant coach Ian Fuller to Los Angeles last weekend to scout Vancouver’s final preseason game against Los Angeles F.C.
“It’s all about being ready for Saturday,” Heath said. “I think we’re ready. We’ve had a great preseason in terms of lack of injuries. A couple little kicks, which you’re going to get. But nothing really, really bad. So there have been a lot of positives from the preseason.”
Waiting for Vito
Newly acquired goalkeeper Vito Mannone’s passport was updated Monday in London and he will rejoin the team Tuesday in time for Wednesday’s practice, Heath said. Wednesday’s practice is the Loons’ last one in Minnesota before they depart for Vancouver. Last season’s starter Bobby Shuttleworth was back at practice Monday after he left training in Orlando early last week because of a personal matter back home.
Heath said he isn’t concerned about Mannone’s lack of practice time with his new teammates and praised the preseason play of rookie goalkeeper Dayne St. Clair.
“He’s fine,” Heath said of Mannone. “The one thing this preseason has shown, we’re so pleased with Dayne. He has been absolutely outstanding. We thought we had a goalkeeper with potential. If he can continue to develop, the sky’s the limit for this kid.”
Ready to play
United forward Abu Danladi, the first overall pick in the MLS SuperDraft in 2017, said he’s ready to play if called upon by Saturday after a swollen ankle sidetracked his preseason training.
“Abu probably will be ready at weekend,” Heath said. “Whether we rush him back for one week, I don’t know. His game is all about high-intense running and speed. Whatever you do (in practice) never replicates what you do in the game.”
• Heath said injured midfielder Kevin Molino, on his way back from knee surgery early last season, is two to three weeks from practicing in contact play. “At the moment, he’s in really good shape, pain free,” Heath said. “The only thing he hasn’t done is physical contact.”
• St. Clair saved both penalty kicks he faced in games/scrimmages during United’s 11 days in Orlando. “He’s so big, so rangy, he’s able to get his leg up here,” Heath said, gesturing toward his shoulder.