Jose Leiton had this to say about his first training session with Minnesota United: "Muy diferente de Costa Rica. Fútbol muy rápido."
Well, different and fast is what he gets for joining in on a fitness day Wednesday at the National Sports Center.
The Costa Rican winger, who signed on for a loan with an option to buy through July 10, 2018, from Costa Rican club C.S. Herediano, finally arrived stateside after three weeks of working out visa paperwork.
While this was the first time seeing his new addition in action, coach Adrian Heath is looking forward to what the 24-year-old, who has mostly played on the left but has the ability to play either side, can bring.
"We're hopeful that he'll give us something that we haven't got," Heath said. "Maybe a winger who stays out wide, hugs the touch line and can beat people and put things in the box."
Through a translator, Leiton said he's excited for this new challenge with United, adding having two Costa Rican national team teammates in center-back Francisco Calvo and midfielder Johan Venegas was important when deciding to move here. Heath said he hopes having three Costa Ricans on the roster gives United a bit of an edge when scouting and signing from the country, which he called "fertile" with talented players.
Cronin endures concussion
Starting midfielder Sam Cronin left the match at Chicago this weekend in the 34th minute with an apparent injury, and the team confirmed Wednesday it is a combination of a concussion and also his lingering neck problem that has already kept him out of some training sessions.
Cronin has played 18 matches with 18 starts since joining the Loons back in March and did not practice Wednesday. Heath said it might be too early to expect Cronin back by the next match, Sept. 9 against the Philadelphia Union.
"He's feeling better by the day," Heath said of Cronin. "It seems like he's got a target on his head at the moment. Every time he goes to close the ball down, which is a must for midfield players, edge of the box, he gets hit in the head, which is, you know, when you've had it as often as he's had, it's not a good thing."
Kapp on loan
In case y'all missed this Tuesday night, goalkeeper Alex Kapp has gone on loan to the Pittsburgh Riverhounds of the United Soccer League for the rest of the season, though United has the ability to recall him. The 22-year-old rookie joined United on Aug. 8 as the third-choice keeper and has yet to see any match action this year after Atlanta United drafted but did not sign him.
Kapp, who arrived in Pittsburgh on Sunday, will be competing for starting minutes with the Riverhounds, who are in the hunt for a playoff spot and have seen season-ending injuries to both of its goalkeepers this season. Riverhounds coach Dave Brandt had been calling around to several teams looking for another keeper, and since United had already loaned center-back Joe Greenspan to the Hounds earlier this season, the Minnesota connection worked out.
Brandt said he knew of Kapp from when he coached collegiately at Navy, and called Kapp a "very good young keeper." Kapp and Matt Perrella, whom the Riverhounds just signed Aug. 10, will "absolutely be going head-to-head for minutes," according to Brandt.
Heath had some high praise for Kapp as well.
"He's done fantastic in the short period he's been with us," Heath said of the 6-footer. "It was a bit of a surprise, his level of his talent in terms of keeping the goal. Obviously, he's got different attributes because of his size, not overly big, but my god, he's got incredible reflexes and really good with the ball at his feet. And we just feel as though it will be important for him, the next stage, to go and get some games, like it was for Joe Greenspan.
"Now we're starting to get bodies back and around us, it might be that we can do that for one or two others because we certainly now are leaving one or two people behind who could probably do with some football."
Other notes: Winger Bashkim Kadrii was again absent from practice and is in fact back in Denmark. The team is still figuring out a possible move for the loanee from FC Copenhagen. ... Forward Christian Ramirez, center-back Brent Kallman and defender Thomas de Villardi all practiced separately Wednesday, still recovering from injuries. Heath said it is looking good for both Burch and Ramirez's return by the Sept. 9 match. ... Forward Abu Danladi made the MLS Team of the Week earlier this week after his game-winning brace at the Chicago Fire. ... Several Loons have been called up to their respective national teams for World Cup qualifiers and international friendlies: midfielder Kevin Molino with Trinidad and Tobago, center-back Michael Boxall with New Zealand, center-back Jermaine Taylor with Jamaica and Venegas and Calvo with Costa Rica. Taylor was still practicing with United on Wednesday (he's leaving Thursday), but the rest are gone. Here's a nifty watch guide.
And don't forget I will be hosting a panel with sporting director Manny Lagos and sideline reporter Jamie Watson on the Star Tribune Stage at the Minnesota State Fair at 1 p.m. Friday. Join us and bring your questions!