Minnesota United on Thursday traded promising striker Mason Toye away to Montreal two weeks shy of his 22nd birthday — just days after it acquired the fifth-leading goal scorer in MLS history, 36-year-old Kei Kamara.
It was the second time in 10 months the Loons said goodbye to a young goal scorer whom they drafted highly. It’s also another decision that indicates a team that added gifted 24-year-old Emanuel Reynoso and 31-year-old defender Bakaye Dibassy in this transfer window firmly is aimed to win now.
Last November, they left 2017 No. 1 overall pick Abu Danladi available in the expansion draft, and Nashville SC made the injury-prone forward the second player selected in a two-team draft.
On Thursday, they traded the 2018 MLS SuperDraft’s seventh overall pick to Montreal after Toye read the wall’s writing and requested a trade to a team where he could be the starting striker.
They’re also in discussions with European and South America clubs to loan 20-year-old Uruguayan designated player Thomas Chacon so he’ll play consistently.
Minnesota United coach Adrian Heath said his team saw “an opportunity” when Colorado shopped Kamara and seized it, hoping to bring him back after his contract expires at season’s end.
“When we have everybody fit and healthy, this team can compete with anybody,” Heath said. “The unfortunate part of late is that has not been the case. We’ve had a horrendous run of injuries that hasn’t helped us. But I do know that once we get everybody fit and healthy, we think we can win.”
“If that means winning now, yeah.”
Heath said his team proved as much at the midsummer MLS is Back Tournament, where it reached the semifinals before losing to Orlando City. The Loons used last winter to strengthen their depth, adding MLS-experienced yet still young role players Jacori Hayes, Marlon Hairston, Raheem Edwards and young Paraguayan striker Luis Amarilla.
They used the current transfer window that opened in mid-August to land Reynoso after a long courtship and Dibassy and still have money and room to make more moves before the window ends Oct. 29.
“We’re still not finished,” Heath said.
Nevertheless, the Loons are 2-5-2 since MLS restarted its regular season after its tournament and are sixth in the Western Conference, two points from missing the playoffs expanded this season but just two as well from third place.
“We’re more than a match when we get our best 11 on the field,” Heath said. ”The sooner we get that, the better.”
But the Loons have played lately with what Heath has called “half a team” that is missing injured two-time MLS Defender of the Year Ike Opara, captain Ozzie Alonso, veteran Ethan Finlay, energetic Kevin Molino and not one but two goalkeepers. That’s both backup Gregory Ranjitsingh and starter Tyler Miller, who underwent hip surgery and is sidelined for the season.
Molino could return from a hamstring injury Saturday against FC Cincinnati. Heath called Alonso and Finlay targeted for next Saturday’s game against FC Dallas. Heath said there has been no change — “As you were” — in Opara’s status but has said repeatedly Opara will play again this season even though he is out with an “undisclosed” injury or condition since late June.
Heath said his staff pursued Thursday’s trade for a week, both to fulfill Toye’s wishes for a new start and for what he called “good value.” The Loons received $600,000 total in general-allocation money, a 2021 second-round pick and a percentage of the transfer fee if/when Montreal sells Toye’s rights.
He knows it’s a gamble, sending Toye to play for Thierry Henry, one of the sport’s greatest scorers and one of Toye’s idols.
“This is not a decision with Mason that we made lightly,” Heath said. “I’m fully aware of what will come back on me if in a year or two Mason is flourishing and scoring goals. You get paid to make decisions. Hopefully, you make more right than wrong, and we all know the consequences if you make too many wrong.”