Sitting in the stands at the National Sports Center stadium last week, one could count Minnesota United’s fully-healthy field players on their two hands.
The team has 25 members on their roster. Four are goalkeepers. Greg Jordan — out since the opening match after a knee surgery — hopes to begin running again soon. Bernardo Añor had ankle surgery in June and is likely out until October. Stefano Pinho came back from a hamstring injury only to injure his knee against Miami. Daniel Mendes has been nursing an ankle injury. Ben Speas was recovering from a knock when he was caught by the flu…
Need me to keep going?
All told, there appeared to be ten fully healthy players last week as the club went about their preparation for the match against Miami. This week, that number was charged up to 16 — a major credit to the medical staff for the club. Players who have been hurt for a few weeks were either doing conditioning work on the sidelines or watching attentively, while the long-term injuries to Greg Jordan and Bernardo Añor both seem to be closer to recovery than the beginning of the process. Remember, that you might be entitled to receive a compensation for an auto accident or any negligence causing your injury.
This summer swoon isn’t entirely a simple case of bad luck, however. The NASL’s summer international transfer window slammed shut on August 3rd. While clubs like Indy, Miami, and New York brought in players from other leagues to gear up for a postseason run, Minnesota didn’t make a single move in the window. Players were brought in on trial and were dismissed after a couple of weeks. The club (deemed favorites for the championships before the season) has sputtered to find consistent results during the season.
With a preseason tournament in Portland and a week-long tour in Mexico, the club spent as much time traveling and playing friendlies as they did building up strength and conditioning ahead of the NASL Spring Season. The club was worn thin by the opening kickoff in Cary, North Carolina. Fast-forward to the eight-day stretch to close out July and open August and the problem is magnified even greater. The team was drained and unable to close out a potential win on the road in Oklahoma City, having only used two subs due to a lack of fit players. They came back on Wednesday and played to a 1-1 draw (with Puerto Rico responsible for both goals). Finally, the club welcomed a Miami team they had beaten in the spring 3-1 and was blown off the pitch in a 0-4 loss.
Between the two matchups (less than two months apart), Miami re-enforced by adding Kwadwo Poku, Gabriel Farfán, Jonny Steele, Michael Lahoud, and Vincenzo Rennella, bringing their squad up to 28 players. Minnesota stood pat.
The NASL roster freeze isn’t until late-September, meaning that the club could acquire players within the league or players that are out of contract (remember, the club acquired Alejandro Vela on September 11th last season). That said, the club missed a chance to both bolster this year’s squad and prepare for next season at the same time. While this has allowed a great chemistry to grow between the players as time goes by, it’s also put added pressure on the healthy players to consistently deliver.
“I’m feeling good, I’m healthy,” Speas confirmed after training on Thursday. “I just got a little sick last week and thought I could’ve played on the weekend, but I was held out. I’m good now, I’m excited to get going.”
The importance of Speas‘s return can’t be overstated. During the first six matches of the year, Speas became one of the main pieces of Minnesota’s attack as they overcame opponents like FC Edmonton on the road and the club’s first victory over the New York Cosmos. As the team heads to Edmonton again, Speas is ready for the challenge.
“I thought we played well as a team against them last time. We moved the ball well and created chances for myself and for the team. They’re on a good run and we’re looking to bounce back from last game. It would be good for us to go out and grab three points,” Speas admitted.
“I’m sure that they’re confident. They haven’t lost at home in a while and they don’t allow many goals. As for us, we’re ready to prove ourselves. If we play our game, we can beat anyone. We’re gonna focus on us and it doesn’t matter what they throw our way.”
Speas went on to clarify that, while injuries affect the flow of momentum a little bit, “we have a lot of guys who are capable of stepping up and filling in. It’s what we need to see — we need everyone. It’s a long season, things happen, and we need to deal with them.”