Five days after Minnesota United traded away promising young striker Mason Toye, it played a Nashville FC that selected Loons 2017 first overall pick Abu Danladi in last November’s expansion draft.
The Loons dealt Toye to Montreal after veteran Kei Kamara arrived and Toye requested a fresh start somewhere he can be a team’s starting striker.
They left Danladi unprotected after he was injury-prone in his three seasons in Minnesota, where he scored 11 goals in 67 games. Nashville SC took him second overall in the expansion draft because of all that promise that made him the 2017 MLS SuperDraft’s top pick out of UCLA.
“When you’ve got a squad of players you like, it’s always going to be difficult,” Loons coach Adrian Heath said. “No doubt we’ll have difficult decisions [for the expansion draft] this year as well. I made no secret of the fact that if Abu can stay fit, there’s a really good footballer there.”
Danladi, 24, has started three times in the 10 games he has played this season and has scored a goal. He was designated a substitute Tuesday after he hadn’t played a game since he started and scored that goal in a 4-2 victory over Atlanta United on Sept. 12.
Heath called Danladi’s injuries “a problem he has had.”
“We wish him well,” Heath said. “He’s a great kid. In perfect circumstances, other circumstances, I would have liked to have kept him, for sure.”
As if the Loons’ schedule redone by a pandemic hasn’t condensed their season enough, Tuesday’s game at Nashville came just two full regeneration days after Saturday’s 2-0 home victory over FC Cincinnati. It was a quick turnaround that caused Heath to start striker Aaron Schoenfeld for 36-year-old Kamara and newly returned Ethan Finlay in his 150th career MLS start for Robin Lod.
Those were among other lineup changes made with Jan Gregus gone to his national team and Chase Gasper suspended Tuesday for yellow-card accumulation.
Why Tuesday, especially when the Loons’ next game isn’t until Sunday at FC Dallas?
“I did ask the question,” Heath said. “When you consider we could have played Wednesday and that would give everybody an extra day and we don’t play until Sunday. So it was a strange one.”
Loons 2020 first-round pick Noah Billingsley finished the USL Championship regular season Saturday as Las Vegas Lights FC’s starting right back. The former UC-Santa Barbara defender who contracted the coronavirus in early summer played on loan since August for coach Frank Yallop, a defender himself who played 13 pro seasons in England. He’ll return to the Loons after what Heath hopes is a shortened quarantine period.
“He has done really well,” Heath said. “One of the reasons we sent him there is we know Frank really well. Frank has been very, very pleased with him. We were pleased with him before he left. We think he has a chance.”
Defender Brent Kallman is staying with the club after he was recalled last week from on loan to an El Paso team headed to the USL Championship playoffs.
“He’s come back in good condition,” Heath said. “The games have done him well. We’ve been really pleased with the way he’s come back from his long spell.”