Gone goal-less last season in his Minnesota United debut, Finnish midfielder Robin Lod has scored nearly every which way — with his head and both feet — in a second MLS season that has thrown every obstacle at him and his teammates.
A year ago, Lod arrived in midsummer after he finished his season in Spain’s second division — even went on holiday afterward — before he joined a new team in a new league in a new country. He played 10 games approaching season’s end and scored neither a goal nor an assist.
Now in a season waylaid by the coronavirus pandemic, Lod leads his Loons with nine goals in all competitions, including seven in regular-season games only, tying him with veteran Kevin Molino.
“Pleased for Robin,” Loons coach Adrian Heath after Lod scored his latest with a tying header in Wednesday’s 2-2 draw with Chicago Fire FC. “He’s doing well, considering he can’t score by all accounts.”
That’s a reference — real or exaggerated by the gaffer — to criticism Lod received last season. That’s when the Loons signed him using targeted allocation money and paid him a rich $952,496 guaranteed-compensation salary that didn’t produce a goal in six starts and 10 total games played.
Now in a season suspended and with games postponed or canceled, Lod has found what he calls both “rhythm” and “comfort” on the field. He has done so particularly when played on the right wing, where his dominant left foot is nearer balls played through the middle.
“It has been tough for everybody,” Lod said. “Living day by day, mentally preparing for every game. I’m happy that still, with all these circumstances, I’ve been performing well.”
Lod, 27, scored his first Minnesota United goal in this season’s second game, following up teammate Luis Amarilla’s blocked penalty kick way back in March.
When games resumed in July, Lod scored twice in the MLS is Back tournament’s knockout rounds. He kept going when the regular season restarted in August. He scored a brace in a 4-0 home victory over Real Salt Lake on Sept. 6, and scored in consecutive games against Houston and Columbus Crew later that month.
“When you get the first goal or the second, it gives you some kind of confidence you will get the next one,” Lod said. “Not stressing so much, it relieves you. That’s what I’ve been trying to do all season.”
Now he has done it again, scoring in the past two games against Colorado and Chicago. He has discovered a connection with new attacking midfielder Emanuel Reynoso, whose deft angled pass Lod finished with a one-touch, left-footed strike in a 2-1 victory over Colorado.
“He’s so good with the ball, sees the field so well,” Lod said. “Anytime he has the ball, you know you just have to run.”
Heath reminds Lod arrived midseason a year ago seeking to find his fitness during the Loons’ playoff push. He already had played his season in Spain by a summer when his first child, a daughter, was born as well.
“I’m not surprised at how well he has done,” Heath said. “He is a terrific finisher, maybe one of the best we have. I’ve told him he’s got to be looking at eight to 12, 13 goals every season. The other great thing about Robin, he’s available for selection all the time. I don’t want to jinx it at all, but he rarely gets injured.”
Lod is set to leave Monday to play three games for a Finnish national team that this time last year qualified for its first major tournament, European championship rescheduled for next summer.
“It’s such a pride thing to play for your country,” he said.
He’ll play the third game Nov. 18 against Wales. The Loons could begin their playoffs as soon as Nov. 21, but he is uncertain what quarantine period he’ll have upon his return.
“I’m living day by day,” Lod said. “I’m hoping I don’t miss any games here. I’m ready for playoff games. That’s my goal.”