MINNEAPOLIS - There was a new sense of normalcy for Minnesota United players and coaches on Wednesday at the National Sports Center in Blaine.
For the first time in about three months, the Loons gathered at their practice facility for a full-team training session. Major League Soccer suspended its season back on March 12 due to the Coronavirus pandemic, and Minnesota United was 2-0 at the time with a pair of road wins.
The Loons were preparing for a four-game home stand in the second season at Allianz Field when play was halted. But for the first time in about 12 weeks, the Loons were back together again on a hot late spring day in Blaine.
“It was a very fun training session. We were able to return to train as a full group after a long time. I felt really happy in that sense. It was great practice, really intense and I think we embraced it well,” forward Luis Amarilla said.
“The first session back, I mean everybody was buzzing. I think you just saw it in everyone’s faces and how they were reacting and seeing each other, getting to actually be a full team again and training collectively. Got a little short-sided game in, which I think guys needed. We missed it, but everyone was pretty excited just to be back on the field again as a collective group,” goalkeeper Tyler Miller said.
The excitement will build in the coming weeks, as Minnesota United could be hitting the road as soon as late next week to Florida. MLS has all 26 teams coming to Orlando for the “MLS is Back Tournament,” which will start with group stage play on July 8.
The Loons have been placed in Group D with Sporting KC, Real Salt Lake and Colorado Rapids. Each team is guaranteed three games, and the top two teams in each group, as well as the next four best third-place teams, advance to the knockout stage. There will be a round of 16, quarterfinals, semifinals and championship match on Aug. 11.
Miller says Minnesota United’s first game back is set for July 11. All games in Florida will be played without fans, and abiding by strict Covid-19 guidelines.
“Now we have an exact date and now we know this is what we need to do to be ready for July 11, for our first game. We can actually set standards and protocol of what we need to do for that game,” Miller said.