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Curtin not ruling out Kai Wagner for season opener and other notes from his call with reporters

No timetable has been given for Wagner’s return and head coach Jim Curtin isn’t ruling out the starting left back for the season opener

Photo by Morgan Tencza

With the countdown to the season opener in Frisco, Texas in single digits, it’s starting to look more and more likely that Matt Real will get the nod to start at left back.

Kai Wagner still hasn’t returned to training and head coach Jim Curtin still couldn’t offer much by way of details about the calf injury that has kept the 23-year-old out of training for the past three weeks in his weekly press conference.

“It’s been obviously frustrating for Kai; it’s an important year for him to back up what he did last season when I thought he was one of the best left backs in the league,” Curtin said Thursday.

When asked if he ruled Wagner out for season opener on February 29, Curtin said he hadn’t.

“I will never rule him out because he’s important,” Curtin said.

Homegrown Matt Real will get the start if Wagner isn’t able to go. Ray Gaddis and Jack de Vries have played at left back the last two games in a pinch. Curtin said both were just filling in because of the work load on Real.

He said he doesn’t want to play Gaddis at left back, something he did for much of the 2018 season.

“If we did (play Gaddis at left back) it would be out of necessity or injury,” he said.

Wagner is the lone player on the first team dealing with an injury right now. Andrew Wooten made his preseason debut with a 25-minute shift in Wednesday’s scrimmage, leaving Wagner as the only first team player who hasn’t featured in any of the six preseason games.

Jakob Glesnes missed the FC Dallas scrimmage because he’s been away working on his visa. Curtin said he will play against DC United and that a decision will be made from there about what two center backs to start in the season opener.

“We have four starting quality center backs and obviously Mark and Jack ended the season last year very well. There’s competition every day in training between all of them. We tend to play with four in the back, unfortunately we haven’t been able to use three in the back because Mark was away, Jack was away and now Jakob is away...We’ll let them compete for the starting job...and that’s how we’ll select it on a weekly basis.”

Other notes from the press conference:

• While there are still openings on the first team roster (up to four), Curtin said he is happy with the group he has going into the season.

“To get a guy now and have him integrated by week one would be tough so I think this will be the group that starts the opening game against Dallas but that doesn’t mean we won’t add a piece here or there along the way,” he said.

• Curtin plans to push his starters 90 minutes in the game Saturday against DC United to replicate the week-to-week schedule to open the season. This suggests the starting XI he sends out Saturday will be similar to the one that lines up against FC Dallas on February 29.

• Curtin also talked about new additions Matej Oravec and El Brujo and their battle to be the starting No. 6, big shoes filled by departed veteran Haris Medunjanin last season. El Brujo struggled in the first half against FC Dallas but bounced back in the second half playing forward as a No. 8 with Oravec back at the 6.

“I knew it wasn’t going to be immediate where it was just plugged in and was perfect,” Curtin said. “Trying to coach them up every day and get them more familiar with their teammates and what we want out of the position and protecting the two center backs behind them.”