Hip injury is blow to defender Gasper and Loons in their turnabout seasons

Until Wednesday’s first half in Los Angeles, no Minnesota United player other than left back Chase Gasper had played every minute of every game this season.

Then Gasper left the field against Los Angeles FC with a hip flexor injury sustained with 18 minutes gone. He is listed as questionable for Saturday’s game against Vancouver in Salt Lake City.

“It might be a little bit soon for Chase to be ready by the weekend,” Loons coach Adrian Heath said Friday from Utah by video call with reporters. “Maybe I’m wrong, I don’t know. He’s still a bit sore. We certainly won’t take any chances.”

If Gasper doesn’t start a 16th consecutive game Saturday, DJ Taylor will move from right back — where he started in Romain Metanire’s recent absence — to left back in Gasper’s place.

Until Wednesday’s comeback 2-2 draw, Gasper started the season as unevenly as his team did when it lost its first four games before both Gasper and the Loons regained their form.

Maybe it’s not all coincidence.

“That was a blow,” Heath said about Gasper’s game-ending injury. “He has been particularly good of late.”

His team, in turn, is 6-1-4 and has beaten Western Conference rivals Seattle, Portland and tied LAFC in its past three games.

Gone are the balls played backward that never reached goalkeeper Tyler Miller and cost the Loons maybe more than one game in their 0-4 season start.

“It wasn’t the best start to the season,” Gasper said after last Saturday’s game. “These things happen. That’s life. It’s part of the game.”

In last Saturday’s 2-1 home victory over Portland, he turned teammate Hassani Dotson’s high, arcing crossing pass – which Heath playfully said has “not a lot of guile, not a lot of craft” to it — into a startling 74th-minute header.

That tied the score 1-1 after the Timbers scored in the 10th minute. Robin Lod combined with playmaker Emanuel Reynoso forthe winning goal in the 85th minute

.”Pleased for Chase,” Heath said. “He had a difficult start to the season, but I think he’s back to his best. The one thing about the kid, you can never fault him for his determination, his effort and his enthusiasm. What he brings every day, you build football club around people like Chase Gasper, for sure.”

Heath acknowledged Gasper’s early-season play affected his team’s early play as well.

“Every mistake he made seemed to be costly,” Heath said. “But I think he has come through that incredibly well. It shows a great sign of his character and commitment. I was so pleased he got the goal last week. He has been playing particularly well.”

If Gasper can’t play, former USL Championship defender and MLS rookie Taylor will start in his place, Heath said.

“We put DJ in a couple weeks ago and he has responded really well,” Heath said. “We think he can play at this level.”

Gasper has impressed recently with his running, with his range moving forward from that left-back spot into attacking positions.

Count Heath and Loons veteran midfielder Wil Trapp among the impressed.

“Everybody goes about it in their own way,” Trapp said about Gasper’s turnaround. “It’s really finding what gets him into his groove: Give him the ball, get him engaged in what he does well, which is getting up and down the flank.”

Trapp calls Gasper a “huge player for us” who has been “excellent” in recent weeks.

“He truly has,” Trapp said. “Whatever slow start he had, he’s truly come out of it.”

Gasper credits resiliency, about which proverbs have been written.

“It’s not about getting knocked down, it’s about getting back up,” he said. “The past is the past and I’m focused on the future.”

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