Minnesota United practiced back in Blaine on Tuesday, just four days before the Loons open their seventh MLS season presumably without absent midfielder Emanuel Reynoso.
Loons coach Adrian Heath said he spoke with Reynoso's father and brother last week in an attempt to get the suspended star to report to the team for the first time since his teammates reported for preseason training on Jan. 6.
"They have the same in mind," Heath said of Reynoso's father and brother. "Hopefully in the next few days, weeks. I don't know. Hopefully a bit of common sense will prevail and he'll be back here."
MLS suspended Reynoso without pay two weeks ago for failing to report. Until then, Heath and the club said he remained home in Argentina attending to personal matters. Heath repeatedly said he expected Reynoso to arrive any day now.
Reynoso signed a new contract last September intended to keep him in Minnesota and MLS through the 2026 season if the Loons exercise a fourth-year option.
On Tuesday, Heath was asked if he thinks Reynoso still wants to be in Minnesota, playing for the Loons.
"I know he wants to be here," Heath said firmly.
Internet reports in the last month linked teams in Turkey and Portugal, among other countries, with possible transfers that involved Reynoso. Heath repeatedly has said his club is not interested in selling Reynoso's rights.
Loons goalkeeper Dayne St. Clair said he and his teammates will play on without Reynoso until the matter is resolved.
"All our games this preseason have been without him," St. Clair said. "We played last season without him; I think he was suspended three different times. It's not like we've never played a game without him before. We know he brings a lot of creativity.
"That's our reality now. He's not here. Games on the road, you have to dig deep sometimes and rely on some guys to step up up into a role that their not prepared for."
The Loons trained in Palm Springs, Calif., and near Orlando, Fla., this last month experimenting in training and preseason friendlies with new formations and tactics. Included: a 4-3-3 formation instead of Heath's preferred 4-2-3-1 and a three-man backline they tried in closed-door trainings.
They trained playing without a traditional "No. 10" playmaking midfielder, Reynoso's position.
"Like we have in any game, where we have Robin [Lod] injured or Rey suspended or whatever," Loons veteran defender Michael Boxall said about playing on without Reynoso. "I don't think you ever expect one player to fill their shoes. A player as special as Rey, we know what he can bring when he's on his game."
Getting green cards
The Loons trained Tuesday with several players missing: Kervin Arriaga and Joseph Rosales were on their way back to Minnesota after they secured U.S. work green cards back home in Honduras, Heath said.
Paraguayan striker Luis Amarilla was away doing the same.
"Obviously, it's not ideal timing in the last week of the preseason building up into the season," Heath said. "But these are important things for us, so we have to go along with it."
Midfielder Hassani Dotson — whose return from season-ending ACL surgery last April is expected to come in the March 11 home opener — was feeling ill. Alan Benitez, veteran defender Brent Kallman and newcomer Mikael Marquez all were out or limited as well.
Heath said Kallman has "a little problem with his Achilles, nothing too bad. Marquez rolled his ankle Monday in training, and Heath said he'll know more Wednesday.
New playoff format
MLS on Tuesday revised its 2023 MLS Cup playoff format to include a pair of single-elimination "wild card" games before a first round that now will reintroduce best-of-three series.
After "Decision Day" on Oct. 21, the top seven teams from each conference will automatically qualify for the first-round series. The next two teams in each conference standings will qualify for those wild-card play-in games. Heath said it's only right teams that reached the playoffs' first round get at least one home game.
"I don't think you should work all season to get to the playoff and go away from home and it costs a couple million quid to get you there and look after you," Heath said. "I think it will keep everybody in the game."