The Loons kicked the ball about on the training fields of the National Sports Center in Blaine on Thursday. Notably absent from training were any players jogging around the pitch as the rest scrimmaged. For the first time since the beginning of the 2016 season, every Minnesota United FC player trained together.
After a long season of mounting injuries, the Loons are getting back to health. Bernardo Añor and Greg Jordan had been out for particularly long spells, while many of the other players have missed multiple matches for smaller injuries. While Añor and Jordan still have work to do to be match fit, head coach Carl Craig is relieved to finally have them back.
Coming from three straight losses and heading into a very winnable home match against Jacksonville, Carl Craig’s message to the team in the locker room was: “Whatever advantage we gained is now gone. Now it’s purely business.”
Craig is not bullish despite facing off against a Jacksonville team that has won away once in its history. He notes: “When we were somewhat of the underdog, we played better football.” Against the Cosmos, he points out, the Loons were impressive despite the loss. Yet against a much weaker Fury, the team seemed unable to hold any possession. Jacksonville, he notes, have a lot of pace in the squad, something which Minnesota lacks. “We have beaten ourselves,” Craig says.
Jamie Watson came in for a good amount of praise from the Loons gaffer, not just for his goals in back-to-back matches, but for his work rate. The Loons recently started using GPS during their matches and Carl says that Watson tops the team in terms of distance covered.
Craig also admits frustration at having to cycle through so many central midfielders, having not settled on a winning formula. “It’s something I thought we needed to address last year, but I’ve got what I got and I need them.” He hinted at more lineup changes for Saturday.
Jeb Brovsky will be unavailable for selection as he’s still nursing a heel injury, but Craig expects him to return to the squad soon.