United starting left back Chase Gasper is back with his MLS teammates and headed to Portland for nine days’ training after he made his U.S. Men’s National Team debut against Costa Rica in Los Angeles two weeks ago.
He was a second-half substitute, coming on in the 77th minute of a 1-0 victory.
“To hear my name called, that I was going to get subbed in, it’s everything you dream about as a kid,” he said. “Growing up, playing in the backyard with your friends, everybody dreams of wearing that jersey, putting that crest on. So to put it on was a surreal moment.”
Gasper, 24, trained with the national team for almost a month in both Florida and L.A. after the team abruptly changed plans to train in Qatar because of developments in the Middle East.
And Gasper was O.K. with that.
“It would have been an incredible experience, but I’m not the biggest fan of flying,” he said. “What’s that, a 14-hour flight? Plus with everything going on, Florida is cool. I like Florida. I was OK being in Bradenton.”
He wouldn’t mind, though, getting there someday. Qatar will host the 2022 World Cup.
“Come World Cup, I’d be happy to be there,” Gasper said. “I’d go anywhere in the world for the World Cup.”
United coach Adrian Heath called U.S. team coach Gregg Berhalter “pleased” with Gasper’s camp and development.
So, too, is Heath.
“For us, it was a month where he got fit,” Heath said. “But off the field it has been huge for him and for his confidence. It’s a just reward for a fantastic first season. The one thing about Chase is what you see is what you get. He gives you everything every single day and I couldn’t be more pleased for him.”
Heath said Gasper “still has some stuff, but it has put us in that dilemma: Do we bring more experience in there but then do we stunt his growth?”
Heath called this week’s trade that brought midfielder/defender Raheem Edwards from Chicago for young center back Wyatt Omsberg the “perfect” solution because Edwards is another one of those young, athletic players acquired since last season. He also can play up and down that left side and has won a MLS Cup with Toronto while still only 24.
Heath said he has liked what he has seen from Edwards as well as fellow midfielders Marlon Hairston and Jacori Hayes – all 24 or 25 and acquired to provide depth particularly during League’s Cup, Open Cup play and FIFA international breaks.
Depending on what it does from here, United will have added 10 or 11 new players since last season ended with a first-round playoff loss to L.A. Galaxy.
“We’ve quietly added a lot of pieces, you know?” Heath said. “I’m really pleased with the group.”
United technical director Mark Watson remains in Argentina Friday trying to complete negotiations to bring Boca Juniors attacking midfielder Emanuel “Bebelo” Reynoso to Minnesota for multiple seasons.
It’s a complicated process that involves Argentina’s soccer federation, both Reynoso’s Boca Juniors and former Talleres teams, agents, the player himself and others. Ultimately, like everything else in life, it all comes down to money, doesn't it?
Heath on Thursday acknowledged the slow nature of such a deal but said he remains “optimistic.”
Toye seeking his spot
Young striker Mason Toye played his way into a starter’s job late last season, but that was before United went and signed Paraguayan Luis Amarilla.
“We had a chat with him,” Heath said about Toye. “Obviously when you’re a young guy, you see strikers being brought in. Invariably, you think here we go. But as we said to him, you can’t go through a season with one striker. He has to be realistic and philosophical. We are going to need him at some stage this year and who knows, it might be opening day.
“Who’s to say we don’t play two up top? We’ve got that option now. As usual, he’s been training really well. That’s the one thing about Mason: He does work really, really hard at his game.”
Heath on Kallman: “Best I’ve seen him look.”
Veteran center back Brent Kallman has been training and will train with the team this coming week in Portland. He is suspended for the regular season’s first five games. Those are the last of a 10-game suspension he incurred last season for using a performance enhancing substance.
He has recovered fully from hip surgery last fall.
“To be fair to Brent, this is the best I’ve seen him look since he’s been here,” Heath said. “He worked really hard in the off-season. Now you look and we’ve got Ike (Opara), Boxy (Michael Boxall), Brent, (Jose) Aja, that’s four. (James) Musa has played there before. There’s a lot of competition there.”
Minnesota United has what mlssoccer.com calls after crunching the numbers the league’s easiest schedule this season while Sporting Kansas City has the toughest.
Every MLS team plays conference opponents twice and 10 of the other conference’s 13 teams. Every team will not play three teams at all.
Those three teams for United will Eastern Conference playoff teams NYCFC, Philadelphia and Toronto while Sporting KC must play at both Atlanta and Philadelphia.
How the two new expansion teams in Nashville and Miami affect that strength of schedule remains to be seen.