Minnesota United returned to work on Wednesday for next week’s first-round playoff game in Portland, but without three starters went abroad for international assignments.
Finland’s Robin Lod, Madagascar’s Romain Metanire and New Zealand’s Michael Boxall – as well as deputy defender Jukka Raitala – will all join their national teams in the World Cup qualifiers or friendly match.
The game starts on Thursday with a qualifying match in Madagascar, Benin, West Africa, and ends on Tuesday with Finland’s match against France in Helsinki and New Zealand’s match against Gambia in the Middle East.
Loons coach Adrian Heath said he expects all four players back next Wednesday and hopes they are all healthy, in time for recovery on Thursday before the team leaves for Portland. Fifth-placed Loons will face fourth-placed Timbers three days later in the MLS Cup first-round playoff on Sunday, November 21st.
“That’s what it is, and it’s not ideal,” Heath said. “In terms of fitness, I don’t think things will change terribly. The only problem is traveling. Romain will be in three different countries, at three different airports and waiting four hours to connect. It won’t help anyone.”
The Loons made it to the playoffs for the third consecutive season, playing against LA Galaxy in a tight 3-3 draw on Sunday in Los Angeles, knocking out the Galaxy from the playoffs.
All four players left after Sunday’s game. FIFA rules require players to return to their national teams upon request. Heath said he has no vote on how many players his players play or don’t play when they are away.
“And I won’t wait,” he said. “It’s a World Cup qualifier. If I were Finland’s manager, I would say, ‘You’re just coming from Portland, we have (opponents of the qualifier) Bosnia and Herzegovina and France under consideration.’ I understand that. “
Boxall have been called up to play a friendly match against Gambia. He was missed due to injury at last summer’s Tokyo Olympics.
“He’s what we say is an integral part of their program, and he’s a very proud New Zealander,” Heath said. “He wants to play. He was upset because he couldn’t play in the Olympics. So I understand that because I think I’d be the same in his position. Does that help us? No, but we can’t say or do much.”
New MLS partner and longtime Loons partner Sun Country Airlines sold $ 49 one-way seats after Sunday’s game starting a same-day charter flight to and from Portland on Nov. 21.
“It’s always great when you have travel support with the size and importance of the game,” Heath said. “It’s nice to hear people in the stadium. Let’s hope we can offer them a show and something encouraging for the day.”