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Eight days after Nashville SC traded him back to Minnesota, veteran midfielder Ján Gregus went home Friday to Geodis Park and watched two former teams play each other in a Leagues Cup quarterfinal.

"It was definitely weird, a strange experience for me," he said.

Signed by the Loons as a designated player in December 2018, Gregus played three MLS seasons in Minnesota, one in San Jose and 16 games with Nashville this season. Now 32, he is back where his MLS career started, reacquired two weeks ago for a 2024 second-round pick and $75,000 in 2024 general-allocation money. The same day, the Loons announced Kervin Arriaga sustained a season-ending knee injury.

That left them with three central midfield options — improving Joseph Rosales, Hassani Dotson and Wil Trapp — while versatile Robin Lod is out with season-ending knee surgery as well.

"Obviously, Kervin's injury exacerbated the situation," Loons coach Adrian Heath said. "We can't go into the remainder of the season with only three midfielders. The fact we know Ján — great professional, really popular — was a no-brainer from our point of view.

"He's exactly the same. He has not changed at all. His weight is exactly the same. He's in great nick. I wouldn't hesitate to put him in."

The trade happened quickly, catching Gregus by surprise when first Nashville general manager, Mike Jacobs, and then Heath called him with the news.

"I had no idea it was coming," Gregus said. "I never thought this kind of thing would happen to me directly. It's definitely a new experience for me, that's for sure."

Gregus was ineligible to play Leagues Cup games against Columbus and his former Nashville team because he wasn't on the Loons roster when the tournament began.

He'll be available to play Sunday at New York City FC when the Loons resume their MLS regular season for the first of 12 games remaining.

The Loons currently are 10th in the Western Conference, one point away for a playoff spot.

Gregus' experience and fitness impressed Heath from the first training session, after which Heath said Gregus "could play tomorrow" if needed."

"It's not going to take him much time to get up to speed," Heath said. "He's always kept himself in great condition. Jan knows exactly what will be expected of him. We haven't changed an awful lot since he was here."

Depending upon where Heath plays Rosales, Gregus could slip right back alongside Dotson in the team's central midfield.

"He's a familiar face," said Dotson, who was red-card suspended for Friday's lopsided 5-0 loss at Nashville in a Leagues Cup quarterfinal. "We get along well. We're just trying to capitalize on what we had before he left. We were a good team back then. We know his quality brings that into the team."

Gregus watched from the sideline Friday, when the Loons allowed two first-half goals and three more in nine minutes in the second half after they surged forward, seeking a goal that never came. Only Nashville counterattacks did.

Nashville played Liga MX's Monterrey on Tuesday night in a Leagues Cup semifinal with a handsome trophy and three of four CONCACAF's Champions Cup slots in 2024 on the line.

"I wish them the best," Gregus said of his former team. "They're part of my football family now. It was a strange feeling to be a part of them and two days later I was on the opposition team. But I was very happy I could see them and talk to them again."

Now he's back where it all started for him in MLS when the Loons acquired him from FC Copenhagen in the Danish Superliga.

"I was here for three years, I have some history here," Gregus said. " I know the players, the environment. I used to live here, so that's the nice part. I believe I can help this club achieve the goals they have."


The Loons on Tuesday loaned forward Cameron Dunbar to Orange County SC of the USL Championship for the rest of the regular season, with the right to recall him to recall him at any time. He has played in three regular season games.