Minnesota United is a club dealing with its fair share of issues heading into a Saturday date with Orlando City.
Like Orlando City, the Loons have a few injured players, most notably forward Christian Ramirez (ankle) and Ghanaian striker Abu Danladi (hamstring). Both were hurt during Minnesota United’s 3-2 loss to the San Jose Earthquakes.
Megan Ryan of The Star Tribune reported Minneosta coach Adrian Heath said Saturday’s match would likely be too early for Danladi’s return and Ramirez would be a game-time decision. Ramirez and Danladi combined to score 22 of the club’s 47 league goals in 2017.
That doesn’t mean the Lions are looking past the Loons, who beat Orlando City 1-0 in Minnesota last season. The Lions face United at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday in Orlando City Stadium. The match will be broadcast on WRDQ-Channel 27.
“We have our own experience with how difficult it can be to deal with injuries,” Orlando City coach Jason Kreis said. “I think, especially for teams are just in the beginning of their second year of building things, I think it’s probably even a little more difficult.
“A lot of times, when you have injuries, maybe the level from one player to the next drops a little bit, but oftentimes the passion and intensity for the replacement rises enough to cover it and then do more. We need to be prepared.”
Several players will miss the match for Orlando City due to injuries and suspensions. Midfielders Sacha Kljestan, Pierre Da Silva and Victor “PC” Giro are all suspended. Midfielders Josué Colmán (quad contusion) and Dillon Powers (ankle), striker Dom Dwyer (quad strain) and holding mid Uri Rosell (fitness) are all out.
Saturday’s match will be another test of the Lions’ depth. Several players made their Orlando City debuts during the club’s 1-1 draw against D.C. United in the season opener.
And, of course, Saturday marks the regular season return of Heath, Orlando City’s former coach. Kreis said he has nothing but respect for Heath.
“I had six and a half great years here with the club,” Heath said while in Orlando during the preseason. “Everybody made me feel like home. They were great to me and my family. It’s always nice. It’s nice to come back and meet so many friendly faces.”
Kreis added Minnesota United will likely play with a bit of a spark thanks to the emotions of their head coach.
“We know it’s a team that’ll probably have a little bit of an emotional charge with a coach that’s coaching them coming back to the stadium he rightly and correctly had a lot to do with the building of,” Kreis said. “It’ll be an emotional – another emotional – affair for us to deal with against a team that I think has a little bit of a statement to make of their own after a loss last week.”
The Lions played United in a preseason training scrimmage. No official result was recorded, but Orlando City outscored Minnesota United 4-1.
Kreis said a solid preseason scrimmage doesn’t mean much during the regular season.
“Yes and no,” he said. “I think it does [help,] but it helps very little. If there’s some new players in and around their group, then you kind of get an idea of who those players are. But for me, preseason is just a completely different animal than the regular season. We need to be really, really focused on putting our best foot forward.”
Team captain Jonathan Spector said neither team gets an advantage from playing the other during preseason.
“I think we’ll both be going into it with the mentality that we want to get results and that’s the way this game is,” he said.
“Not too dissimilar to D.C. United. I don’t feel like the teams are too different.”
Mueller feeling refreshed
Rookie striker Chris Mueller, who started Orlando City’s season opener, trained separately from the team for most of the week. Team officials said he wasn’t injured, just following a different training schedule.
Mueller spoke to Pro Soccer USA after training on Friday and said he feels good. He came of in the 58th minute of Saturday’s match for Stéfano Pinho.
“I feel refreshed,” he said. “They wanted me to train separately from the group this week after the game and I feel refreshed going into this weekend.”