Six Minnesota United players who need to step up with rash of absences

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Minnesota United’s home within the National Sports Center in Blaine didn’t have the same bustle on Tuesday.

“It was really quiet in the facility,” defender Devin Padelford said. “It was almost sad. You walk in and you’re like, ‘Where is everyone?’ at breakfast. And then you realize, oh my gosh, that many people are gone.”

The Loons have an MLS-high nine players away on international duty for Saturday’s match against FC Dallas, which has only two bit players gone to play for their countries. MNUFC’s internationals have played a combined 5,965 MLS minutes this season; Dallas’ pair have been on the field for 101 total minutes.

“You could rest into the frustration of the whole situation given that we are standout example in the MLS this week of players missing, which is obviously compounded by injuries and the set of circumstances in players being out,” head coach Eric Ramsay said Tuesday. “I think we take it for what it is and really get our teeth stuck into and trying to prepare this group for a difficult game. We’ve sort of thrived on that need to be pragmatic and hopefully that will bring the best out of (the coaching staff) and the players.”

The Loons will be without six regulars — goalkeeper Dayne St. Clair, left wingback Joseph Rosales, midfielder Robin Lod and strikers Teemu Pukki and Tani Oluwaseyi. Plus, three backups, defender Zarek Valentin and midfielders Alejandro Bran and Carlos Harvey.

It doesn’t stop there. Micky Tapias, who is in Mexico for a U.S. green card meeting, has an outside chance of making the bench for Saturday. DJ Taylor (hamstring) will miss this weekend’s game, while Caden Clark (toe) might be able play through the pain to play Dallas.

Here are six players the Loons will likely need to step up this weekend:

Jordan Adebayo-Smith and Patrick Weah

With Oluwaseyi called up to Canada on Monday, the Loons are without their leading scorer this season (seven goals in 624 minutes). With Pukki also away with Finland, Jordan Adebayo-Smith is the top candidate to take over at the No. 9 position — if Ramsay plays with one center forward..

Adebayo-Smith dealt with an ankle injury that cost him more than one month, but has come off the bench in the last two games. The former New England Revolution player has gotten into dangerous spots and contributed to scoring chances across his 58 minutes this season.

Weah has not yet played in MLS this season, but the Minnesotan leads MNUFC2 with seven goals.

The Loons might need a striker to step up beyond this weekend. If Oluwaseyi makes a good impression on new Canadian coach Jesse Marsch, Oluwaseyi could be included in the Copa America tournament and might be away from the Loons for a month from late June into July.

“For someone like Patrick or Jordan to stake a bit of a claim, and depending how long it goes on for Tani with Canada, then that could be a nice opportunity for someone to come in and take the minutes (Tani) and Teemu have shared,” Ramsay said. “… Then suddenly you’ve got another player that you can look at a very credible option. I’m hoping that is the case.”

Hugo Bacharach, Victor Eriksson and Morris Duggan

With Tapias and Arriaga away, the Loons will need center backs and full/wingbacks to move into spots. “We are definitely light on the back line,” Ramsay said.

MNUFC has been reluctant to put Eriksson back on the field after his poor MLS debut against Philadelphia in March. It wouldn’t be surprising if he is passed up again this weekend.

Bacharach made his first MLS start April 13 vs. Houston, but the rookie had surgery on his meniscus after that match and hasn’t played since. He has been training without restraint for weeks and would have been a top option to step in, but Saturday might be too soon to return to the starting XI.

“He’s done enough training to justify his inclusion this week,” Ramsay said. “We won’t rush him from the start. It’s come a week or so too early for him really without him being able to get any second-team minutes properly under his belt. … It’s a shame because for him, it would have been a really good opportunity — and might still present itself that way.”

That might leave some other options in need of stepping up, such as MNUFC2 players Finn McRobb or Britton Fischer. Michael Boxall’s leadership will be needed at the back, with Padelford and Clark candidates to play full/wingback.

Clint Irwin

St. Clair has played all 1,350 MLS minutes in net for MNUFC this season, but he is set to be away for Canada’s friendlies over the next week and through Copa America, which runs from June 20 to the final on July 14.

Irwin has played 141 career MLS matches, so the stage will be too big for him. But the 35-year-old is not the same shot-stopper as St. Clair and if Irwin goes down with injury, the Loons are threadbare.

The backups are Alec Smir and Fred Emmings, and if it reaches that level for a period of time, the Loons could look to MLS’ emergency pool of goalkeepers. The club wasn’t able to acquire a third-string goalie before the primary transfer window closed this spring and will have to make do with what they have.

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