Just weeks before the Minnesota State Fair returns, Minnesota United celebrated its biggest move into the international transfer market yet by handing a select number of fans teenage Uruguayan midfielder Thomas Chacon on a stick when his signing was announced at halftime of a U.S. Open Cup game against Portland.
Chacon’s photo was fastened on one side of the stick, and his accomplishments before he turns 19 next week were listed on the other.
The multiyear, multimillion transfer from his Danubio club surpasses $3 million for a prospect who became the franchise’s first Young Designated Player.
United management has followed his development the past two years, watching him turn into an attacking midfielder who already has played two seasons in Uruguay’s rugged first division. He also has played for his national team at every level, including in the under-20 World Cup.
“To sign a young player who can come in and grow into what he is and into who we are is very exciting,” United Sporting Director Manny Lagos said.
According to MLS rules and Chacon’s “young” designation, only $150,000 of Chacon’s salary counts toward the team’s salary cap because he is under 20. It increases some if he’s still a Loon when he’s 21.
The club welcomed Chacon’s signing with a highlight video on its big scoreboard above the standing-only Wonderwall during halftime of Wednesday’s game against Portland.
It showed an energetic 5-5 teenager with speed and a shifty change of direction whose stature Lagos said is a benefit, not a detriment.
“He’s lively, he’s quick,” Lagos said. “He’s not that tall, so he uses that to his advantage. He’s quick in the turn. He wants to go at guys. He wants the fight. He wants to bring energy. He wants to keep pressing the game.”
Lagos views Chacon not necessarily as a young player who can arrive and develop behind 31-year-old star Darwin Quintero at his same midfield spot, but rather a talent who can play three positions up front.
Asked if Chacon in time will become the kind of attacking, playmaking “No. 10” position midfielder all teams seek, Lagos said, “It’s a funny thing what the number 10 in soccer is these days. I think that’s a question that’s going to evolve depending where the No. 10 plays. Is it wide? Is it central? Is it a speedy player? Is it a position with skill and touch?
“For us, what he evolves into is, he’s very dangerous at any of the front three positions. He’s a modern-day soccer player.”
To make roster room for him, United on Monday traded $50,000 in allocation money to D.C. United for an international-roster spot the Loons needed to create for Chacon. The team also bought down striker Angelo Rodriguez’s contract so it could shift his designated player title to Chacon’s young designated player.