Minnesota United coach Adrian Heath shuffled his starting 11 for Saturday’s game against Columbus, bringing back star Darwin Quintero after two consecutive games as a substitute and playing without veteran defender Ike Opara among several changes.
Opara missed much of training last week with what Heath called a “slight knock” that wouldn’t sideline him Saturday. But he was neither starter nor sub on a night when defender Michael Boxall and midfielder Kevin Molino also moved back into the starting lineup in a 4-2-3-1 formation intended to keep United an improved team defensively and still get Quintero back creating and scoring goals.
“Ike just didn’t feel 100 percent,” Heath said, “so there’s no point rushing it.”
Heath also moved Miguel Ibarra to a left-back position to discourage Columbus from paying right back Romain Metanire so much attention, as Chicago did last week. Rasmus Schuller, Eric Miller and Abu Danladi entered as second-half substitutes.
Quintero played between Molino on the left and Ethan Finlay on the right, just behind striker Angelo Rodriguez. Heath long has hoped to see Molino and Quintero play with and off each other together in a two-man combination.
On Friday, Heath said he wants to rest veterans such as Opara and Ozzie Alonso some in training during the week and in an upcoming friendly and a U.S. Open Cup game.
Opara on Saturday missed his second of the team’s 12 games so far this season while Alonso, Metanire and goalkeeper Vito Mannone are United’s only three to play every minute this season.
“The biggest problem in the next few weeks with some friendly games, we’ll need to put a competitive team out and give them the rest they need,” Heath said. “The biggest problem for them two is nine times out of 10 keeping them off the training ground. They know what’s good for them and what’s not good for them. So we listen to them and let them and their bodies tell us how they feel.”
Boxall is back
Boxall played for the first time since he misplayed Toronto’s winning goal a month ago. When asked if he felt redemption for a performance Heath praised afterward, Boxall simply said he didn’t want to soil the sheets after his last outing.
“You want to play every game,” he said. “But when the team the next two games didn’t concede a goal, I was delighted for the boys.”
Not one but two …
Metanire started Saturday’s game after he missed Friday’s training to be at the hospital with his wife, Aude, who delivered the couple’s second child — a sony named Isayah — before Saturday’s opening kick.
Goalkeeper Bobby Shuttleworth’s wife delivered a child as well, daughter Quinn.
Saturday’s game was the first of three for United in the next eight days, including Wednesday’s friendly against Hertha Berlin, a club in Germany’s Bundesliga. Heath called it a “perfect opportunity” for his team’s supporters — “and there’s a lot of new supporters” — to see top international competition.
“This is Bundesliga, this is a proper team coming in,” Heath said. “It’s a real opportunity for people to come see top-drawer, European-league players.”