PORTLAND, ORE. – After weeks of determined pursuit and negotiation, Minnesota United is “one or two minor details” from acquiring attacking midfielder Emanuel “Bebelo” Reynoso from Argentina’s famed Boca Juniors team.
According to sources with knowledge of the matter, Reynoso will come to Minnesota and Major League Soccer on a club-record $5.5 million transfer fee and will be signed for the next five seasons as one of the team’s three allowed “designated players.”
Always optimistic the deal would get done, United coach Adrian Heath called himself even “more so” after Sunday’s 2-2 preseason draw with New England and said only those minor details remain to be finalized.
“It’s getting closer,” Heath said. “I’m keeping my fingers crossed that we’ll get him here even this week.”
Reynoso was not in Boca Juniors’ starting lineup Sunday night for the fourth consecutive week. That coincides with negotiations for which new United new technical director Mark Watson traveled to Buenos Aires twice in the past month.
Watson remained there Sunday for a sixth consecutive day, awaiting Boca Juniors management’s return from Sunday’s game, presumably to finalize the details to obtain a player Heath has called a “game changer.”
Reynoso has a travel visa that allows him to travel to the United States without delay and he could join his new teammates before the Loons leave Portland on Saturday after participating in a three-game preseason tournament.
United quietly has made 11 roster moves since Heath and Watson were made responsible for the Loons’ first team after last season’s end. It’s saving the biggest for possibly its 12th and last by adding Reynoso to play underneath newly signed Paraguayan striker Luis Amarilla, who scored both of his team’s goals on Sunday after he audaciously promised Heath he’d score 25 this season.
Amarilla scored one last week as well. Does that mean he only owes Heath 22 more?
“No, 25 in the league it was,” Heath said, smiling. “These don’t count. He looked today like he could score a goal.”
United will pay that big transfer fee for a young, dynamic player. Reynoso and Amarilla both are 24.
Reynoso and Amarilla in particular have been targeted to boost an offense that scored just 12 goals in United’s final 12 games last season and traded away leading goal scorer Darwin Quintero and lost 2017 No. 1 overall draft pick Abu Danladi in the expansion draft, both in November.
Reynoso would join veteran midfielder Jan Gregus and teenager Thomas Chacon as the team’s three designated players, a distinction that allows MLS teams to pay three players contracts beyond the teams’ salary caps.
A season ago, United signed five new starters, most of them approaching 30 years old or beyond. This season, it targeted athletic players in their mid-20s, including Reynoso and Amarilla from South America as well as young MLS players Marlon Hairston, Jacori Hayes and Raheem Edwards, who are in their mid-20s but have played several MLS seasons already.
“I’m really pleased with the group,” Heath said, “and if we could add another one of his quality, it bodes well for the future.”
Reynoso will play the “No. 10” attacker’s role that Quintero played the past two seasons and continue an MLS trend in recent seasons that has brought young and gifted South American players north to the league. Many have come for big sums that are the price of doing business in MLS these days, during which teams have seen franchise fees and player transfer fees soar.
United veteran midfielder Ethan Finlay has watched Reynoso’s highlights on the internet.
“You can only tell so much on video, but he’s a player who is highly regarded in South America,” Finlay said. “Boca Juniors is a really good club and has a lot of really good players on it.”