Minnesota United welcomes Atlas FC for an international friendly match on Saturday. MNUFC has enjoyed a bit of a break from MLS play due to the Gold Cup, while visiting Atlas is preparing for the upcoming Liga MX season. Here is what the Loons have to say.
Head Coach Adrian Heath
On what he was looking for from the team at training:
A little bit of everything, really, because we gave them a few days off. And obviously, we’ve probably trained harder on a Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday than we would normally in a normal week. But when you’ve had four days off, you have to get into that mode. So today was very much a disguised fitness day with the ball. I think the days of just running have gone. When I played, they’d run you for an hour and that would be your fitness. And now, you can actually — with the conditions that you put in the game — get all the physical components you want in a training session. Less touches on the ball, bigger field, for the numbers that you use. It’ll be interesting to see the figures, but I know that the data tomorrow will tell us that they’ve had a really physical day.
On what he has thought of Sam Nicholson so far:
I think he’s been excellent. He’s doing exactly what we thought we were getting. He’s a wide guy that can play underneath or on both sides. He’s very direct. He can beat people one-on-one off the dribble. Looks like he’s got a goal in him. He’s got two good feet. The important thing for me is we’re getting another few bodies, who can actually, I think, increase competition for places. This first sort of part of the season, I feel as though the guys who have started the majority of minutes have not been under enough pressure to perform consistently, at home and away. And hopefully the addition of these two, with some more to come hopefully in the next three weeks, will increase the competition all around.
On what he saw in Michael Boxall’s game that said he was ready to come back to MLS:
I think there’s a couple of things. He’s playing international football, which gives you a good barometer of the level of he’s playing at. I know the coach of New Zealand really well — Alan Hudson’s son, Anthony. And Anthony says he’s just got better and better over the last two or three years. It’s like a lot of the issues that people thought he had, it’s like he’s figured them out. I honestly think that he’s going to be a great back, he’s played right back. And as proved against Columbus, when we’ve got two or three injuries, a suspension, or a couple away on international duty, we’re very light in numbers in them areas. It’ll be a welcome addition. And I just think, going back to what I just said about Sam [Nicholson], I think he's another body who can come in and play in the first team.
Midfielder Sam Nicholson
On what made him come to Minnesota:
Just the feeling that I got when was here and everyone around the place. They were just welcoming. They showed they’re working, and as a player, that’s what you want. You want to know that you’re wanted somewhere. It was an easy option for me. When I looked at the facilities and stuff, I knew I wanted to come here.
On his personal goals for playing in the MLS:
I think no matter what you’re doing in soccer, you’ve got to try and make as big a name for yourself as you can. I mean, I’m on a team with good enough players where we all help each other out on the pitch. Hopefully that’ll help. I think that’s the goal for everyone.
On the friendly this Saturday, what he wants to work on and get out of it:
I just think getting match fitness and getting sharp again, like I was towards the end of last season. I think that’s important because we’ve got until the end of the season to push and see how high we can get in the table. So I think I’ve got to try and work and get myself up to the same level as everyone in terms of fitness, because I’ve been off because our season is different. But I mean, Jarryd [Phillips] had me working hard, so I’m getting close to it. So I will just be trying to get as much match fitness as possible.
On what some of the differences are that he is noticing:
I think back home we make it out as a better standard [of soccer] than what it is, because coming here it’s great. Maybe even better to be honest from what I’ve seen. So I think back home we try and — especially in Scotland — I think we talk our game up a little bit. We either talk our game up really high, or we just talk it too low. There is never any medium ground. They’re both good standards, they should always be kept as good standards. But I think back home, we’re more likely to jump on something and say it’s bad or good. I’m loving it here so far. It’s a nice change. It’s a nice challenge. Everybody is being great with me and stuff. I’ve been hanging over with people away from here and stuff, and it’s been good because they’ve been really welcoming. So I’m happy to be here.
Defender Michael Boxall
On the positions he feels he can play for Minnesota United:
Naturally a center back, and I’ve played a fair bit of right back as well. So I’m kind of I’m equally comfortable with either.
On what his personal goals are here in Minnesota:
I think, since I’ve arrived, I just want to assimilate myself with the boys and just come on. Obviously when you come into a team in the middle of the season, it’s not always the easiest thing to do. It’s almost like the first day of school kind of vibe. Just try to get to know them as quick as I can, and just become one of them. Just help the team in whatever way I can.
On what will be different about MLS this time:
I think I’m just a lot more experienced than I was. I think anytime you leave a club not on your own terms, you feel like you could have done more. You like things to be in your own hands. So, no I think I’ve obviously got a lot more experience and I’ve played a lot more games than I had back in Vancouver. I think I’m definitely able to more help the team in my situation now than I was six years ago.
On how playing overseas is different than MLS:
When I played in Australia, I think the Australian league is fairly similar. Similar structure, similar quality of players. And then the South African league, it’s very different. A lot less structure about the players. So many talented players that are just allowed to freely express themselves. I think that’s where, when I was playing around back there, you actually have to really defend one-on-one very well, because you’ll have center backs and defenders who can dribble as well as wingers over there. So, definitely one-v-one improved in South Africa.