Bertrand Owundi Eko’o wasn’t hard to pick out at Minnesota United practice Tuesday at the National Sports Center. The Cameroonian center back, at 6-2. 190 pounds, is easily one of the biggest guys on the team.
After some paperwork hold ups delayed the defender’s announcement and arrival, Owundi Eko’o is here and ready to add some central defense depth behind Francisco Calvo, Michael Boxall, Brent Kallman and Wyatt Omsberg.
Owundi Eko’o is the first of United’s international signings this year to be cleared to play. Midfielder Frantz Pangop has been training with the team since preseason but is still waiting on his paperwork. So is midfielder Luiz Fernando, who is set to arrive Wednesday night and begin training likely Thursday.
“I’m very happy to be here and join the team,” Owundi Eko’o said. “Everybody’s good. The welcoming was really good, for the players and the staff.” (Guys, Owundi Eko’o seemed like a nice dude. Even though Jerome Thiesson was there to help translate from French, BOE wanted to try all his answers in English, and he did great. He said while it is nice to have people like Thiesson and Pangop on the team who speak French, he’s excited to adapt to English.)
Owundi Eko’o said his game is based on winning the ball and going forward with it. He also said he excels at a power game, including headers and long balls.
“It is a good experience for me,” Owundi Eko’o said of coming to MLS. “I want to go another level.”
Coach Adrian Heath said Owundi Eko’o is a “big, big, strong boy” and might have some playing time on the horizon with a international games next week that will likely take some Loons, like Calvo, away for the March 24 match at the New York Red Bulls.
“Hopefully next week, we can get some minutes into them,” Heath said. “We can hopefully get in a game next week for all the guys who have not really played. Get him on a big pitch, see how he is.”
Heath also added he’s pleased with Pangop’s development throughout the past few months.
“The two Cameroonian kids, I think, are going to help us down the stretch,” Heath said. “Pangop’s suddenly starting to look [like] he’s settled a little bit more now. He knows the group. He’s starting to use the qualities that we know he has. He’s got really good pace, good change of direction.”
Some other notes from practice:
Midfielder Sam Cronin was still missing with his concussion.
Both forward Abu Danladi and wigner Sam Nicholson trained on the side with left hamstring injuries. Heath said Nicholson should be ready to go for the weekend as his injury is more precautionary. As for Danladi, Heath said he’s not sure if this is a continuation of last season’s injury woes. But with rookie Mason Toye ready to step in, the team isn’t rushing Danladi back to fitness like in 2017.
With playmaker Kevin Molino likely out for the season with a torn ACL, Heath said the team has to figure out how to fill that gap on both the short and long term. That largely depends on if the team can bring in someone who also plays a No. 10 position, otherwise the Loons will likely be changing their shape into something like a two-forward system.
Heath did confirm what he said on KFAN on Monday evening, which is that he and sporting director Manny Lagos are traveling to South America to watch a game for a player they’ve identified. He wouldn’t comment on reports that it is Club America striker Darwin Quintero, but he did say the club has “one or two other things” going on, as it seems United always does.
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