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Loons to field ‘mixed bag’ lineup in U.S. Open Cup game

Suspensions, nagging injuries and coach’s choice all will create what Minnesota United coach Adrian Heath calls a “mixed bag” lineup he’ll field against Union Omaha in Wednesday’s U.S. Open Cup round of 16 game.

“It doesn’t matter who we put out, the message will still be the same,” Heath said. “We treat the opposition with the respect they deserve.”

Real Salt Lake, Columbus Crew, Austin FC and Chicago Fire are MLS teams already knocked out of the historic all-comers tournament through the round of 32.

“As I said to the boys this morning, there’s four of them,” Heath said after Tuesday training about MLS teams eliminated. “That shows if you don’t treat the opposition with respect and don’t treat the game with respect, it’s very, very easy to get knocked out.”

Defending USL League One champion Union Omaha beat the Fire on penalty kicks and defeated the Des Moines Menace and Northern Colorado Hailstorm to reach Allianz Field.

Heath coached lower-division teams in Austin, Texas, and Orlando in U.S. Open Cup games in his day.

“I’ve been there as a USL manager,” Heath said. “To some of their guys, this might be the biggest game they ever play. They’ll be ready for us. We have to match that intensity they’re going to bring and if we do, we’ll be fine.”

Union Omaha came to Blaine for a 2021 preseason scrimmage and Union assistant coach Bobby Murphy once was Heath’s longtime assistant coach.

“They’re a very well-organized and motivated team,” Heath said. “It doesn’t surprise me they’ve done well.”

The Loons remain the U.S. Open Cup’s runners-up after they lost to Atlanta in 2019. That’s the last Open Cup played because of COVID-19 delays and cancellations. The tournament wasn’t played in 2020 or 2021.

The Loons will aim to get to the final eight on the road with a Wednesday lineup that will include both regular starters and players who have gotten most of their minutes this season with the reserve team.

Call it MNUFC 1.5.

First-teamers Robin Lod and Abu Danladi likely won’t play because of what Heath calls “little knocks.” Veteran defender Michael Boxall and central midfielder Kervin Arriaga will play when they otherwise wouldn’t have because both are suspended for Saturday’s MLS game against New York City FC.

And backup defender Brent Kallman won’t play Wednesday when he otherwise would have because he is suspended Wednesday because of two yellow cards booked in the U.S. Open Cup round of 32 victory over Colorado.

Also expect prospects such as Nabi Kibunguchy, Aziel Jackson and possibly Devin Padelford to get some time. Reserve goalkeeper Eric Dick will start for Dayne St. Clair and Tyler Miller, who sustained an abdominal injury in warmups Sunday at Dallas.

Dick called the two games he played for a MNUFC2 team unbeaten in six games “immense” for game action it provided.

“As a goalie, you can get all the training experience and that’s very important for development,” Dick said. “But it’s amazing how seeing things in games is totally different. You can get stuff in games you just can’t simulate in practice. I’ve been very lucky to get some games with them. It’s an honor to play in such a big-stage game.”