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Notebook: Saprissa match offers an opportunity for Loons’ squad players

Considering Minnesota United’s condensed July schedule, Head Coach Adrian Heath sees Wednesday’s international friendly against Deportivo Saprissa as an ideal opportunity to evaluate the depth of his squad.

The match against the reigning Costa Rican national champions will be the fourth in 12 days for MNUFC and the midway point in a run of seven matches in 23 days. As such, Heath will give players who have not featured recently a chance to shine.

“We do not expect an easy game,” Heath said. “It is a really good opportunity for us to give six or seven guys who have had no football over the last five or six weeks a 90 minutes. That is what it is going to be used for.”

Defenders Carter Manley, Wyatt Omsberg and Bertrand Owundi Eko’o and midfielders Harrison Heath, Maximiano, Collin Martin and Frantz Pangop all fit the bill for players who could see significant time against “La S.”

Heath said it is not ideal that there are players in his team who have not seen meaningful minutes for nearly two months, but as long as they compete and do what he has asked of them, he will consider Wednesday’s friendly a success. His real hope, though, is that some of the players show him they are capable of playing first team minutes.

“I want to see a commitment and a level of performance that gives us food for thought moving forward for the first team,” Heath said. “It is never easy for them because they are going to want to impress and some of them have not had a game for seven or eight weeks.”

In Saprissa, Minnesota is going up against a club that knows a thing or two about developing players. El Monstruo Morado’s record 34 league titles have been built on the back of its ability to identify and grow Costa Rican youth talent. The club has been integral to the country’s recent rise on the international stage and has sent numerous players to MLS — including Minnesota defender Francisco Calvo.

Saprissa is expected to field a younger roster on Wednesday, meaning the Loons will get an early look at what could be the next wave of Ticos stars.

“They have good players and good young players,” Heath said. “It will be an opportunity for us to look at the next batch because this is very much a new team for Saprissa.”

WHAT TO WATCH FOR: MASON TOYE’S DEVELOPMENT

Minnesota’s international friendly could also prove to be the next chapter in promising rookie forward Mason Toye’s development.

After being plucked out of the University of Indiana with the seventh overall pick in the 2018 SuperDraft, Toye has made 12 appearances and one start for MNUFC — often being deployed as a change of pace late in matches — but is still searching for his first goal.

The unanimous 2017 Big Ten Freshman of the Year has shown ample natural ability — evidenced by his size, speed and all-around athleticism — but is still working to master the finer details of the sport. The coaching staff has applauded the youngster’s work ethic in that regard and are confident he can reach his massive potential.

“At the moment, the timing of where he is running, where to run and how to run still needs a lot of work but we are aware of that,” Heath said. “He is a 19-year-old boy who a year ago was playing high school football. He has all the physical tools but he needs to know when and where.”

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