There are lots of hard things that MNUFC has to deal with in the preseason. There’s the soul-sucking Minnesota winter that requires them to either train in a dome, or travel to warmer climates. This year, there’s the challenge of not only supplementing the first team but filling out an entirely new team, MNUFC 2. But particularly, the Loons’ biggest challenge this offseason has seemed to be somewhat more basic: simply getting all of the team’s players into the same physical location.
The whole preseason has been nothing but endless updates on who is, and is not, in training camp. Emanuel Reynoso was a late arriver because of legal problems in Argentina. Hassani Dotson was on paternity leave. Robin Lod had, of all things, military service in Finland. Michael Boxall was on duty with the New Zealand national team.
All of the above are now in camp, though Reynoso is temporarily back in Argentina dealing with a family issue (supposedly this is not related to his legal issues.) But then, there’s a batch of Loons - and putative Loons - that haven’t showed up yet.
One is Bongokuhle Hlongwane, the young South African who’s lit the MNUFC social media homepages aflame, due to the new population of excited South Africans demanding updates on their native son. Hlongwane is still getting visas sorted out, and for a primer on this sort of thing, you can’t do better than a post that immigration lawyer Cory Caouette wrote last year for Twins Daily. There’s a fascinating world out there, of consular posts and embassy approvals, that only soccer and baseball fans ever hear about.
This happens every year with the Twins, where at least one player gets trapped in an infinity loop in a Latin American country and can’t show up for the beginning of spring training, so I guess I’m used to it.
What I also should be used to is drawn-out transfer sagas for the Loons. The club is apparently still hoping that Kervin Arriaga and Luis Amarilla will be here before they leave for Portland on Thursday, but neither one has officially put pen to paper, and they’ve got about 24 hours to do so.
Arriaga is, according to reports, stuck in Honduras until a matter of unpaid child support gets worked out. (This is why he couldn’t travel with the Honduran national team last week.) Amarilla was pictured on social media with Emanuel Reynoso in Argentina, so I guess it’s possible that the reason Reynoso is in Argentina is to sign Amarilla?
Speaking also of Portland, here’s the Loons’ official schedule for the Timbers’ preseason tournament:
- Sunday 2/13: Portland, 2pm
- Wednesday 2/16: Real Salt Lake, 7pm
- Saturday 2/19: Viking FK, 4:30pm
After that, the Loons have a few weeks to get everything (puts finger to ear) okay I’m being told they open the regular season one week after that Viking FK game, 17 days from today.
I read somewhere that at least the first two of these preseason games will have live streams, which feels necessary at this point for no other reason than reminding fans that the Loons actually exist, and that their home opener is (gulp) March 5th.
With all of these late arrivals in mind, let’s take a way-too-early guess at the lineup the Loons will roll out against Philadelphia on March 26.
Dayne St. Clair
Oniel Fisher - Michael Boxall - Bakaye Dibassy - Chase Gasper
Wil Trapp - Hassani Dotson
Abu Danladi - Emanuel Reynoso - Franco Fragapane
Subs in 2nd half: Luis Amarilla, Niko Hansen, Joseph Rosales
The main questions here, I guess, are:
- Who will start at keeper?
- Who will start at right wing?
- Will the Loons keep lining up in a 4-2-3-1 or will they switch it up?
I suspect we will know more after the week in Portland.