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Loons midfielder Joseph Rosales endears himself to disabled fan with a special gesture

Matt Navratil, a 26-year-old from Burnsville, Minnesota, is a diehard Loons fan and a season-ticket holder who travels with his parents, Scott and Chris, to a few road games each season.

Minnesota United midfielder Joseph Rosales, left, went out of his way to meet Loons fan Matt Navratil of Burnsville, Minnesota, after a 2-1 win over Nashville SC at GEODIS Park in Nashville, Tenn., on Sunday, Aug. 14, 2022.
Courtesy / Matt Navratil via St. Paul Pioneer Press
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ST. PAUL -- Matt Navratil and his parents were minding their own business, spectating the afterparty of Minnesota United’s 2-1 victory at Nashville SC on Sunday.

About 50 MNUFC supporters — the club’s largest traveling group of the season — were singing “Wonderwall” in one section of brand-new Geodis Park, while the Navratils were watching players mingle from the concourse level.

Next to the field, United midfielder Joseph Rosales was thanking his girlfriend and her family for coming to see him play when a Nashville fan took it upon himself to tell Rosales he should go up into the stands to meet and greet the Navratils.

Matt Navratil, a 26-year-old from Burnsville, Minnesota, is a diehard Loons fan and a season-ticket holder who travels with his parents, Scott and Chris, to a few road games each season. Matt has necrotizing autoimmune myopathy, an extremely rare condition that causes muscle weakness in his core and extremities.

It can be difficult for him to do stairs and he sometimes needs the aid of a wheelchair. The Navratils were sitting on the American with Disabilities Act section of the stadium, so Rosales darted up the stairs to take a photo with Matt.


“He couldn’t make it down from his seats but I made the effort to go to him and complete that dream for him,” Rosales said in a Spanish translation via club employee Gabriela Lozada.

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After signing a 2½-year contract with MNUFC through the 2024 season, with a club option for 2025, the 28-year-old Paraguayan has played in three games — an international friendly versus Everton, plus coming off the bench in two MLS games, wins over Houston and Portland.

Navratil has met a few Loons players before — with Robin Lod signing a Finland jersey and Rosales doing the same for a Honduras kit. But the Navratils weren’t seeking an interaction last weekend.

“It was really nice and thoughtful of him to make his way up there and say hi to us,” Navratil said in an interview. “… It caught us completely by surprise.”

Rosales explained why he went out of his way on Sunday.

“More than anything, first, (it’s) putting myself as a person, first and foremost, and (with) humility above all,” Rosales said. “… I (also) knew nothing bad was going to happen to me.”

The Nashville fan also was a protagonist. “As someone whose home team just lost, it was really, really nice of them to do that,” Navratil said. “Nashville’s fans are up there on my list of very, very nice people. And before that, they were nice, too. But this interaction really stood out to me, how kind the gentleman was to take time out of his day.”

Rosales, 21, was a second-half sub Sunday and provided the game-winning assist on Alan Benitez’s goal. Rosales has assists in consecutive games going into Saturday’s big game at Allianz Field when Minnesota (11-9-5, 38 points) takes on Austin FC (14-5-6, 48 points) at 7 p.m.

Navratil praised how accessible the St. Paul stadium is to fans with disabilities; he is able to get down to the lower-level stadium club for home games, and a supporters group, AccessiLoons, is dedicated to and advocates for MNUFC fans with disabilities,


Rosales finds himself in a crowded midfield now with fellow Honduran Kervin Arriaga back from an ankle injury, Wil Trapp on the mend from a hamstring injury and Jonathan Gonzalez added on a loan from Monterrey just before the summer transfer window closed in early August.

With that depth, and Hassani Dotson (knee) back next season, Rosales’ future might be hazy. His 18-month loan from Panama club Independiente runs out at the end of the 2022 season, but the Loons have an option to buy his contract, and it’s not considered to be an expensive price tag.

“I’d like to stay,” Rosales shared Tuesday. “I feel at home here. I’ve adapted to everything, the weather, the food, my teammates, friends. Everything will be decided at the end, and if I get to stay, I’ll keep defending the colors of Minnesota United until I die.”


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