Minnesota United recorded one clean sheet after another in preseason play, but despite its history of allowing too many goals that isn’t what left coach Adrian Heath chuffed. (That's English for pleased.)
They trained for six weeks in Blaine, Arizona and Florida and played preseason games against MLS and non-MLS competition and arrive at Saturday’s season opener at Vancouver with only strikers Angelo Rodriguez nursing an improving groin injury and Abu Danladi aimed at a return from a swollen ankle next week at San Jose.
“It was a good preseason,” Heath said. “You’re trying to work on things, but the most important thing is at the end of the six weeks everybody is physically ready.”
The only injured player left at home was midfielder Kevin Molino, who is on his way back from knee surgery early last season and is a week or two from participating in contact play.
Reserves Dayne St. Clair, Collin Martin, Carter Manley and Wyatt Omsberg have been sent to play two games with United’s Madison, Wis., affiliate.
Rodriguez isn’t yet ready to start. Heath on Friday called his available to play.
Here’s how the lineup looks with only five players who started last season’s finale at Columbus part of the first 11 today. It's the same one Heath used most of the preseason when Rodriguez was out.
Rasmus Schuller, Darwin Quintero, Miguel Ibarra
Ozzie Alonso, Jan Gregus
Francisco Calvo, Ike Opara, Michael Boxall, Romain Metanire
Substitutes: Rodriguez, Brent Kallman, Bobby Shuttleworth, Hassani Dotson, Mason Toye, Chase Gasper, Ethan Finlay.
The five who started last season’s finale: Quintero, Schuller, Miguel Ibarra, Calvo, Boxall.
The seven starters then who are not in today’s starting lineup: Rodriguez, Martin, Fernando Bob, Brent Kallman, Eric Miller and keeper Matt Lampson.
Today, by the way, not only is Mannone’s debut with United, but it’s also his 31st birthday. That’s a long way from when he signed with English power Arsenal at age 17.
“It seems like a long time ago,” he said, “but some days it feels like yesterday.”