Wednesday’s international friendly against German second-division club FC Kaiserslautern gave Minnesota United the chance to split its squad — one for each half — on a warm, sticky, smoky and lightning-delayed night at Allianz Field.
The Loons’ 2-1 comeback victory provided second-teamers a rare chance to impress after halftime and the first teamers precious time to play together after injury and absence limited them in the season’s first four months.
Their starting 11 — especially two-time All-Star midfielder Emanuel Reynoso — used it wisely.
After the Loons surrendered a seventh-minute goal, Reynoso did what he does, creating two goals with vision and touch three minutes apart.
In the 21st minute, Reynoso’s spin-move with the ball and seeing-eye pass to DJ Taylor set up Mender Garcia’s goal from right in front of the goal for the equalizer.
Three minutes later, he perfectly chipped the ball ahead and new attacking mate Sang Bin Jeong chased it down and scored on an angle.
Suddenly, the Loons led 2-1, an advantage they held xxx.
The game was delayed nearly an hour at halftime because of lightning strikes within eight miles of Allianz Field. It also was played with brief hydration breaks to help players beat the humidity.
Four days after they allowed a last-seconds goal in stoppage time for a 2-2 draw at Real Salt Lake, Heath called upon mostly separate lineups before and after halftime.
Saturday’s starters did so again, with one exception: Keeper Eric Dick started for Dayne St. Clair, gone to his Canadian national team for Gold Cup duty, and veteran Clint Irwin. Homegrown Fred Emmings came on in goal after halftime.
Heath filled his substitutes slots with the likes of CC Uche, Britton Fischer, Zaydan Bello, Diogo Pacheco, Emmanuel Iwe and Rory O’Driscoll from the Loons’ MNUFC2 reserve team. First teamers Kervin Arriaga, Brent Kallman, Cameron Dunbar and Devin Padelford also saw playing time they’ve been lacking for various reasons.
Pachecoi and Dunbar each had their chance to make it 3-1, but just missed.
Heath called every moment on the field an opportunity for someone.
Heath and his staff spotted current center-back Micky Tapias playing for CF Pachuca in a friendly against the Loons at Allianz Field in September 2019.
“Micky caught our eye that night,” Heath said. “It took us two years to get him.”
That game against Pachuca provided the Loons an opportunity to get an anchor at center back on their backline. Heath suggested Wednesday’s game could work the other way around.
“Tomorrow might be an opportunity for our players to show one of the bigger clubs in Germany there is talent here because that has happened in the past.”