Minnesota United FC center back Ike Opara — the 2019 MLS defender of the year — won’t be available to play for at least a few more weeks after he missed the Loons’ six-game run to the MLS is Back Tournament semifinals last week.
Opara, who has an undisclosed preexisting condition, “certainly won’t be available for the next couple of games,” United coach Adrian Heath said on a video call Thursday.
United will play its first home game of the 2020 season against Opara’s former team, Sporting Kansas City, at 6:30 p.m. Aug. 21 at Allianz Field. It will be the first of 18 total games the Loons are expected to have in a rejiggered regular season that will run through Nov. 8. At least the first three games in St. Paul through mid-September won’t be played in front of spectators out of precaution for COVID-19.
“It’s an ongoing thing with Ike,” Heath said. “… We are speaking to him daily, and he is coming into the (National Sports Center in Blaine) and training on his own.”
Going into the Florida trip in late June, the club said Opara, 31, would be away from the team for at least the tournament’s group-stage games. That absence extended through the knockout rounds.
Heath declined to share Opara’s particular ailment. “We’ll wait on that,” he said. “We’ll probably make an announcement in the next week to 10 days, I would think.”
Meanwhile, the Loons’ newest signing, center back/left back Bakaye Dibassy, could arrive in Minnesota by the middle of next week. The Frenchman will need to go through a 10-day quarantine before being available to train, with his immigration paperwork “virtually done,” Heath said.
“The sooner we can get him here, the sooner he can start his quarantine procedure, and that will obviously dictate when we can get him on the field,” Heath said.
After Opara started the first two games of the regular season in March, Jose Aja stepped into Opara’s spot on the back line and the Loons went on a five-game unbeaten run in Florida.
Reynoso on verge, affects Chacon
Farther up the pitch, Heath said an agreement is in place to bring Argentine central attacking midfielder Emanuel Reynoso in a transfer deal from Bueno Aires club Boca Juniors. It still needs final signatures for approval.
“As soon as we can get his paperwork and everything done and everything signed off, the sooner he can get here and into the quarantine,” Heath said.
The addition of Reynoso, a Designated Player, could impact another Loons DP, Thomas Chacon, who plays a similar attacking position. Heath mentioned a possible loan for the 19-year-old midfielder, who has played sparingly in his year in Minnesota.
“Depending on what happens with Reynoso, if that goes over the line, it’s something that we have to look at because, a little bit like Mason (Toye), the kids need to play,” Heath said.
Minnesota United is set to face Sporting Kansas City twice in the next six games — on the heals of playing them in the tournament. The Loons also face FC Dallas twice, with one match against Real Salt Lake — another club they just faced in Florida.
This is a theme. MLS said Thursday its three Canadian clubs, based on travel restrictions, will play the other two teams three times in this six-game stretch. At least the Loons’ schedule isn’t that restrictive, yet.
“It’s going to be one of them things that we all look back on and go … ‘Do you remember that season that we played Kansas five times?’ Or something like that,” Heath said.
Each club’s remaining 12 games have yet to be announced.
Romain Metanire and Kevin Molino, who suffered hamstring injuries in Florida, are back in training in Blaine. … Goalkeeper Dayne St. Clair has had three shutouts in the past four games while on loan to San Antonio FC in the USL Championship, including Wednesday’s game, when he was man of the match, against Tulsa. He has given up a total of three goals in five games since the restart.