Some unusual guests visited Minnesota United training Wednesday in Blaine: puppies.
Players from the soccer club's first and second teams held, kissed and rolled on the grass with nine sibling puppies approaching 6 weeks old.
They visited from Ruff Start Rescue in Princeton, Minn., after their neglected and very pregnant mother was found on a bridge in the rain. In coordination with club corporate partner Purina, they came to training to promote pet adoption, "de-stress" and calm players at work before Saturday's home game against Sporting Kansas City.
Does it work?
"It seems like it does," Minnesota United partnership marketing coordinator Carrie Allen said, gesturing to players seated on the grass with puppies in their lap and arms.
They are believed to be a Bernese mountain dog/shepherd mix. Because there are nine of them, they're all named after famous baseball players: Puckett (the biggest at 9.5 pounds), Yogi, Robinson, Jeter, Babe, Clemens, Chipper, Lou and Ramirez (the smallest at 7 pounds).
Loons coach Adrian Heath was asked if he had puppies at training before.
"No, but nothing surprises me in football anymore," he said.
Arriaga approaching return
Midfielder Kervin Arriaga could start doing ball work next week and is approaching a return on the road back from knee meniscus surgery, Heath said.
"He's pain free," Heath said. "Is it a week? Is it 10 days? We've been really pleased with his progress."
Trapp out ill
Defensive midfielder Wil Trapp has been away from the team since Saturday because he has been ill.
Heath called the Trapp-Jan Gregus midfield pairing "excellent" in Saturday's comeback 1-1 draw with New England. "He'll have to train tomorrow."
If he can't, Heath said Hassani Dotson will take Trapp's spot.
Gone for last Saturday's game, forwards Teemu Pukki and Sang Bin Jeong as well as midfielder/left back Joseph Rosales all were due back Wednesday from international duty. That means they'll be ready for Saturday's home game vs. Sporting KC.
Pukki left for his Finland team after he scored twice in two games. He started and played 62 minutes Sunday in a 1-0 loss to Denmark in a 2024 UEFA Euro qualifier.
"He's good," Heath said. "He's a bit tired, the flying he did."
Call Heath unimpressed after attending the U.S. National Men's team's 4-0 victory over Oman at Allianz Field on Tuesday night.
He called the U.S. team's play "really sloppy. I thought they weren't very good. It was nice to see them in our stadium."