Skip to content

Loons’ McAuley steps in for suspended coach Heath vs. Austin

Minnesota United coach Adrian Heath said Wednesday that he could not appeal his card-accumulation suspension.

Assistant coach Sean McAuley will fill in as Heath’s interim replacement for Saturday’s match against Austin FC, while he sits in a coach’s booth with a headset. Heath will be allowed to communicate up until 90 minutes before the game’s 7:30 pm start at Allianz Field.

“I mean, [don’t] want to sit upstairs and have the earpiece on,” Heath said. “I like being down there, where I feel as though you can influence it a little bit at times. But it is what it is. I’m not the first. I won’t be the last.”

He picked up his sixth yellow card of the season late in the Loons’ 4-1 win over the Portland Timbers this past weekend, after referee Lukasz Szpala awarded a controversial foul call to Ďario Zuparić.

That moment of conflict seemed to be when Heath’s frustrations boiled over, but not where it started. Four different Loons players were handed a yellow card within the first 34 minutes of the match, while the Timbers concluded with just one after 90-plus minutes.

“I just thought the circumstances of the suspension were a little bit difficult, when the referee tells you he’s made a mistake and then you get punished for reacting to something that was clearly a really poor decision,” Heath said.

Pukki to join team Thursday

Heath’s stalemate with the MLS means renowned Finnish striker Teemu Pukki, acquired by the Loons as a designated player last week, might play his first match Saturday without his new head coach on the touchline.

However, Heath said he has yet to determine whether Pukki will start or play.

Pukki’s first practice at Blaine’s National Sports Center will take place Thursday, with his introductory news conference scheduled for Friday afternoon.

“The first thing to do is make sure Pukki feels comfortable,” starting defenseman DJ Taylor said.

“A lot of the guys here, we’re just blue-collar workers. We all do our jobs, we just work and trust in the gaff and keep moving like that. So as long as Pukki works, which I’m sure he does, we’ll be good.”

Personnel updates Starting midfielder Sang Bin Jeong (groin injury) is “really doubtful” for Saturday, according to Heath: “He didn’t really feel it on the Saturday, didn’t feel it Sunday — but Monday was not in good shape, a little bit of something there on the MRI.”DJ Taylor (hamstring) called his early exit vs. Portland “a precaution,” and Heath added that Taylor felt fine to practice by Monday. “We must have some good [physiologists],” Heath joked. Heath identified Kervin Arriaga, Brent Kallman and Bakaye Dibassy as potential replacements for starting defender Michael Boxall, who will also serve a one-game suspension due to card accumulation: “Kervin’s even played there in the past, so that’s one . Obviously BK, and we have to decide whether Dibassy could go and start a game of this magnitude.” A deal between Minnesota United and 29-year-old midfielder Ismael Tajouri-Shradi, who practiced with the team Wednesday, is pending official confirmation from “We’ll hopefully announce something with him in the next couple of days,” Heath said.