Settled into their own floor at a Walt Disney World resort since Sunday, Minnesota United’s players trained for an hour Monday evening and again Tuesday morning in an attempt to adjust to the Florida summer heat.
“They’re probably equally as warm,” said Loons veteran midfielder Ethan Finlay, who was Duluth-born and Wisconsin-raised.
The Loons open the “MLS is Back” tournament against Sporting Kansas City on July 12 with an 8 p.m. game Orlando time. Their two other Group D games — July 17 against Real Salt Lake and July 22 against Colorado — both will be played at 10:30 p.m. Orlando time.
They’ve avoided the other tournament time slot, the dreaded 9 a.m. start that’s the other one intended to beat the heat.
The monthlong tournament — played without spectators because of the coronavirus pandemic — opens July 8 with two games, including home-state Orlando City playing Inter Miami first.
The Loons emphasized defense in small-sided games during their first two training sessions at ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex before they concentrate on their team shape leading into Sunday’s scrimmage against Columbus.
“Defending in this heat is the great equalizer,” Finlay said in an interview with a Loons employee provided to media. “We have to have the willingness to defend and that’s been one of our priorities the last couple days and I think it probably will be for the first week.”
The Loons arrived Sunday in Orlando by chartered flight. They chartered only once last season, to the U.S. Open Cup final in Atlanta, but this “MLS is Back” tournament is a special circumstance in a league that has added more chartered flights guaranteed in its new labor agreement with players.
“The best way to travel, the only way to travel it seems now once you do it,” Finlay said. “It was great.”
The team’s 42-person traveling party — players, coaches, staff — wore face masks on the flight and boarded multiple buses upon arrival so they could, like on the plane, sit separated by an empty seat.
“We’re doing things we haven’t done before,” Finlay said. “Guys are getting used to it.”
They had meals ready to eat in their rooms upon their hotel arrival Sunday during a mandatory 12-hour quarantine in place until they received results from nasal-swab testing for the virus.
“It has been great,” Finlay said about the team’s first days in Orlando.
“The pitch is nice, the facilities are great and we are on our way.”