Minnesota United, one of five teams in Major League Soccer without a loss, will be without seven starters when its hosts the winless Vancouver Whitecaps on Saturday night in Saint Paul, Minn.
Coming off a 2-1 win at Colorado, the Loons (2-0-1, seven points) have been hit hard by having players being called up for international duty, including starting goalkeeper Dayne St. Clair (Canada), key defenders Michael Boxall (New Zealand) and Kemar Lawrence (Jamaica) and versatile midfielder Robin Lod (Finland).
Minnesota also remains without 2022 All-Star midfielder Emanuel Reynoso, who is suspended by the league after failing to return from Argentina for the start of the season for what the team has termed personal reasons.
"I will not make an excuse (of) the fact that we've got seven, eight players away this weekend," Loons coach Adrian Heath said. "We have a squad of 28 players and that's why you have a squad of 28. At some stage, you're going to get called upon.
"I know what playing for England meant for me, and I would never stop the players from going and representing their country. I think it's something that we should be proud of, but when you're losing six, seven starters, it's not ideal."
Vancouver (0-2-2, two points) is one of five teams in MLS still searching for its first win and comes in off a 1-1 draw with the Los Angeles Galaxy on March 18 in Carson, Calif. Tristan Blackmon scored on a header in the 14th minute for the Whitecaps off a crossing pass from midfielder Julian Gressel, who notched his third assist of the season.
The draw was a costly one for Vancouver, however. The Whitecaps lost starting forward Sergio Cordova in the first half to a right hamstring injury that is expected to sideline him for six to eight weeks.
The Whitecaps also will be without two players on international duty: midfielder Andres Cubas (Paraguay) and defender Javian Brown (Jamaica),
Minnesota United swept the two games between the two teams last season, 3-1 at Vancouver and 2-0 on Decision Day in Saint Paul, a loss that knocked the Whitecaps out of the playoffs.
"It's another tough, tough game on the road," Gressel told the Vancouver Sun. "I think of Minnesota, I think of the last game we had there last season. Obviously that stings a little bit that we couldn't come away with the win there to get into the playoffs."
--Field Level Media