Minnesota United coach Adrian Heath: You can't switch off against Alan Pulido

Adrian Heath - preseason - jacket

As a Mexican star in a league followed by plenty of Mexican-American fans, Alan Pulido's fast start to his Sporting Kansas City and Major League Soccer career got most of the Week 1 and 2 headlines of the 2020 regular season.

Minnesota United manager Adrian Heath would remind you, however, that their own Paraguayan import started just as brightly.

Like Pulido, Luis Amarilla began 2020 with two goals and an assist for his new club, as the Loons and SKC were two of four MLS clubs to begin their season with a pair of wins before the COVID-19 pandemic halted play in March.

And the skillsets are similar enough that Heath believes it may help the Loons defense know what to expect when the two sides tangle in Sunday's Group D opener (8 pm ET | ESPN, TSN).

"He’s a bit like Luis, because if you switch off for a second, invariably he’s away from you or he’s across or he’s across the front of ya, and if they create opportunities I think he’s going to score a lot of goals," Heath said.

Perhaps it's good for both defenses that they're facing those respective strikers in Matchday 1, where goals have been relatively difficult to come by.

And while SKC and Minnesota were both among the brightest starters, Loons midfielder Ethan Finlay believes in this tournament it will be more about how you finish the group phase.

We want to win the tournament without a doubt. Are we a betting favorite, no I don’t think necessarily we are. We’re missing a defender of the year in Ike Opara unfortunately, but we have a good group, we have a competitive group. We have a team that has depth. Like you said, we have a team that can score goals."

If that doesn't happen in Game 1? Be patient.

"I think as time goes on and as heavy legs get heavier, you’ll probably see more goals," Finlay said.

In addition to Opara's absence with an undisclosed injury, Minnesota No. 6 Osvaldo Alonso is recovering from "a little niggle," Heath said, making his status for the SKC match unclear.

"We’re hopefully going to be OK for the weekend," Heath said. "He trained a little bit this morning. Knowing Ozzie the way I do, certainly if he can get out there, he will get out there. But we won’t risk him just for the sake of getting him into the first game."