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Cameron Knowles likely to be Loons’ interim head coach to start season

With each passing day, it’s more likely that Cameron Knowles will remain Minnesota United’s interim head coach when the Loons open the 2024 MLS season at Austin FC on Feb. 24.

Amid three preseason games in California, Knowles said Monday he is just taking it one day at a time as new Chief Soccer Officer Khaled El-Ahmad approaches the conclusion of an exhaustive search.

“The messaging is the same,” Knowles said. “They are going though an extensive process and looking for the next head coach of the club. I don’t think there is a fixed timeline on what that looks like. The staff and I continue to prepare each and every day.

“For me, it’s a great opportunity that I get to work with the guys,” Knowles continued. “That, for me, is the focus. I know there is a really good chance I will be taking the team tomorrow (Tuesday) and our job is to prepare them for that training session and continue one day at a time. We can’t look too far ahead.”

MNUFC will play its second of three friendlies at the Coachella Valley Invitational against Chicago Fire at 4 p.m. Wednesday. The Loons will rotate the squad from Saturday’s 2-1 victory over Phoenix Rising, with Teemu Pukki and Victor Eriksson candidates to be included in the exhibition.

Eriksson, a Swedish center back, just received his work visa and trained with team for the first time Monday. Pukki has rejoined group after the birth of his child in Finland last week.

Still no Reynoso

Star midfielder Emanuel Reynoso limped off the practice field in Blaine last Tuesday and has not returned to first-team training in California as of Monday.

Reynoso and Kervin Arriaga are working off to the side with medical staff, Knowles said.

“We don’t really have a significant update on that,” Knowles said about Reynoso.

Multiple key pieces of the Loons’ attack have been scattered this preseason.

Winger Bongi Hlongwane has completed paperwork for his U.S. green card but remains in South Africa needing a meeting before returning to MNUFC. That absence comes on top of Reynoso and Pukki being away or sidelined for stretches this winter.

Briefly

The Loons (1-0-1 in two preseason games) will feature more projected starters in their final friendly Saturday against Charlotte FC. The goal will be to get as many players as possible ready to go 90 minutes against Austin one week later. … Both the Chicago and Charlotte friendlies will be streamed on the club’s web site. … First-round draft pick Hugo Bacharach and third-rounder Morris Duggan will need to receive contract offers to remain with MNUFC for 2024 season. Duggan has had setbacks in preseason and is more on the fence than Bacharach. … Alejandro Bran started in central midfield for the Loons against Phoenix. The Costa Rican loanee was in the middle of the park alongside two projected starters in Hassani Dotson and Robin Lod. Bran’s “effort is good, his ability on the ball has been good as well,” Knowles said. “He’s been a really good addition for the group.” … Sang Bin Jeong has been playing on the right side in preseason camp. … Backup goalkeeper Clint Irwin is expected to miss weeks, not months, with the groin injury suffered vs. Montreal on Feb. 27.

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