Minnesota United kicked off their busiest stretch of the season with a 1-0 win over Austin on Saturday, the first of five games in the next 16 days.
The tense period began earlier for center-back Michael Boxall and three other players playing for their national teams in friendlies and World Cup qualifiers around the world last week.
With New Zealand, Boxall traveled to Curacao and then to Bahrain. Robin Lod, along with understudy Jukka Raitala, went to his native Finland, and then to Kazakhstan. Romain Metanir left for Congo and his homeland of Madagascar.
They returned to Minnesota a few days before the crew’s relatively short flight to Texas. This trip was nothing compared to what international loons had to deal with.
Boxall said the day of the marathon home started before sunrise in Bahrain, a small Middle Eastern country, with its maiden flight to Istanbul, Turkey, followed by a transatlantic flight to Chicago, and then a final, short flight to Minneapolis Street. Airport floor. He returned home around midnight and had to deal with an eight-hour time shift.
“When you talk to Robin after the game (Austin), your body doesn’t quite know what time it is,” Boxall said. “Once in the game, you forget about all this. The crowd in Austin was pretty good. You kind of forget about it until the final whistle blows and you say, “Okay, I’m tired.” ”
Boxall and the others, with newly stamped passports, had little time to readjust, but are due to arrive again on Wednesday. Minnesota (11-10-8, 41 points) will face the Philadelphia Union (12-7-10, 46) at 19:00 at Allianz Field, followed by Los -Angeles “.
The Union match is the second and final game against the Eastern Conference team this season, but Minnesota has nowhere to breathe in the West standings. While Minnesota beat Austin, two teams directly above them and two below in the standings also won. Just one example of how tight it is; five points are shared by the teams in fifth to ninth places in the standings. The top seven teams advance to the playoffs.
“If we could finish the week with nine points, it would be an incredible week for us,” said Loons manager Adrian Heath.
After the last four games this stretch, Minnesota will have a week before the season finale on Decision Day. Heath said the playoff seeding would be pushed back to the last date.
Union are unbeaten in their last six games, but Heath has gone back even further to point to their continued success, which includes the Fan Shield for the league’s best overall record in 2020.
“It’s very difficult to play against a team,” Heath said. “He plays really aggressively with and without the ball. They try to get the ball forward early and then press very aggressively. There are one or two areas that we think we can use, and we need to see if we can do that. If we do this, it seems to us that we will have opportunities. ”
Minnesota has only one injury in this intense game – rookie and little-known striker Justin McMaster. Midfielder Wil Trapp, who missed Austin for personal reasons, trained on Tuesday and will be available to play for Union on Wednesday.
For the national team, their bodies have re-acclimated to the timeline, even if the tight schedule of games prevents them from knowing what day of the week it is.