The reviews are in from Minnesota United new striker Luis Amarilla’s debut against MLS competition after he scored both goals in his team’s 2-2 draw against the New England Revolution on Sunday in Portland.
Amarilla scored the game’s first goal, in the 23rd minute, when he converted Kevin Molino’s curving crossing pass from the left wing with a right-legged volley from short range after it had nicked off a New England defender marking him.
Then the Paraguay native gave United a 2-1 lead in the 36th minute on a penalty kick. He went left and Revs goalkeeper Matt Turner guessed the other way after Loons midfielder Robin Lod was hauled down from behind on a run in the penalty box.
United coach Adrian Heath: “Excellent first showing for him, really. Really good ball retention. Looked dangerous. Looked like he was going to score, so it’s a good start for him. Is understanding with Kevin Molino, especially in the first half, was excellent.
“They’re both on the same wavelength, both very sharp on the mind. Obviously, it’ll do their confidence no end of good as well.
“He looked like he could score a goal. We have high expectations of Luis this year. It was a good start for him today. His confidence will start to grow. There’s a lot more to come.”
Veteran midfielder Ethan Finlay: “That’s a really special play. You go back and watch it and it’s a flick header. He still has the ability to stay focused and tap that thing on the back post. Really good movement on that one. And he finished the penalty with a lot of confidence. You love to see that.
“His movement off the ball is going to be a little of a difference maker that we haven’t had. He can run behind guys. He’s extremely powerful and then once he gets in the box, he doesn’t make a mistake. His finishing is always spot on. He’s giving us a dynamic I don’t think we’ve had in the past.”
Waiting on Reynoso
Heath and United waited Monday for what the coach calls the last "minor" details on a club-record transfer fee to acquire Argentina's Emanuel Reynos. The hope is that he can join the team in Portland yet this week to start building chemistry with Amarilla and his other new teammates.
"One of the reasons we need to get him in as early as possible is to get that relationship growing, to know where people run off the ball," Heath said. "That will come in time."
Feels like home
Second-year midfielder Hassani Dotson started Sunday against New England while captain Ozzie Alonso returned home to Miami briefly to attend to a family matter.
Dotson’s dad and brother drove down from the family’s home in Federal Way, Wash. His girlfriend and friends as well as former Oregon State teammates came to watch, too.
They might have been about a fourth of the attendance at Providence Park for the opening act to the Timbers-Vancouver main event later.
“I definitely missed the Pac Northwest,” he said. “The wind, the crisp feel.”
Vets Alonzo and Opara back, on grass
Alonzo was back at training Monday morning after that quick trip home, running on his own and getting some work in with the reserves who came off the bench en masse in Sunday’s second half.
Veteran defender Ike Opara trained on the grass as well with the reserves and likely will get his first game action of the preseason Wednesday against the Timbers. Expect the reserves to start and get plenty of run in that one.
Hitting the ground running
Newly signed center back Jose Aja started for Opara and played 75 minutes Sunday after he just arrived last week.
“My first game here, I feel pretty comfortable,’’ he said. “Seventy-five minutes is good for me my first time here.”
Aja has played in MLS with Orlando and Vancouver and most recently played in Chile, but he and his wife wanted to return to the United States.
“I like very much this league, so I’m very happy to be here again,” said Aja, 26. “I’m happy to be in Minnesota. We have a really good team. We’re very happy, my wife and me. It’s good for us.”
Go the distance
Two defensive errors led to New England’s two goals Sunday after the Revs had trailed 1-0 and then 2-1, but Heath called himself impressed with new goalkeeper Tyler Miller’s performance. He was the only Loon who played all 90 minutes.
“He proved what he is,” Heath said. “I think he’s going to be an excellent signing for us. He looked really assured. Great with the ball at his feet as well. I was really pleased with the first group. I thought they were excellent.”
Trialist Lamar Batista, 21, who came on with the reserves in the second half, is a 6-5 defender who has been with Portland Timbers 2 as well as LAFC and USL’s Phoenix Rising and FC Tucson teams. He also has come through the same UC-Santa Barbara Gauchos pipeline as veteran defender Michael Boxall and rookie draft pick Noah Billingsley.