Minnesota United coach Adrian Heath calls himself "hopeful" that he'll get both star midfielder Emanuel Reynoso and starting central midfielder Kervin Arriaga back for Saturday afternoon's home game against Portland.
Reynoso trained part of Wednesday's session in Blaine after he didn't play in Saturday's 2-1 victory at Houston. He rolled an ankle in an international friendly against Everton FC four days before that, and the Loons won anyway without him.
"For us to get that win and show people that we don't just need Rey to score two goals for us to win the game was important," Heath said.
Heath said he'll know more Thursday morning when he sees how the ankle reacted to Wednesday's work.
"He didn't do a full session, but he has played a lot of football of late, so we're not really worried about his general fitness," Heath said after training. "He has worked hard, been working inside doing a lot of cardiovascular stuff on the bike, so we'll see. We're hopeful. We'll see if he has any reaction to today's work."
Arriaga hasn't played since he was injured early in a June 29 game at L.A. Galaxy. He has missed the past five games because of an ankle injury, as well. Defensive midfielder and captain Wil Trapp also remains injured.
"Kervin has been working hard the last week or so," Heath said. "He's a little bit tender, but I think he'll play at the weekend or be available for selection anyway."
Bongi's first goal
Loons first-year forward Bongokuhle Hlongwane finally scored his first goal this season after so many previous chances. His teammates immediately mobbed him after his left-footed strike from just inside the 18-yard box found the net just inside the far, left post.
"He deserved that," Heath said. "He's a real good finisher with his left foot. I'm sure that will do his confidence no harm."
Dibassy fit for new deal
Heath called upon one of his folksy expressions when asked if starting center back Bakaye Dibassy has another couple of years left in him after the Loons signed him Monday to a one-year contract with a club option. He turns 33 in two weeks.
"More than a couple; he's as fit as a butcher's dog," Heath said. "We're really delighted that he's signed. He's been outstanding for us."
Former first-round pick Nabi Kibunguchy made his MLS debut by playing all of Saturday's game in the midfield of a 4-3-3 formation that the injury-depleted Loons played most of the game.
"I thought he done well," Heath said. "I thought he could have done better on their goal. We spoke about that this morning, but I thought his energy levels were good. He'll be all the better for playing in that game."
Kibunguchy was told Friday that he'd start the next day's game.
"My whole life, I dreamed of this moment," said Kibunguchy, a 6-3 defender/central midfielder selected 18th overall in the 2021 MLS SuperDraft. "I was ready for the moment, and I took my opportunity."