Minnesota United spent dollars by the millions the past two transfer windows to acquire Finland international Robin Lod, Uruguayan teenager Thomas Chacon, Argentine attacking midfielder Emanuel Reynoso, French center back Bakaye Dibassy and MLS’ No. 5 all-time leading scorer, Kei Kamara.
The Loons also extended starting right back Romain Metanire’s contract last summer.
Now headed toward the MLS Cup playoffs’ second round, they’re poised to do the same with leading goal-scorer Kevin Molino, who at age 30 becomes a free agent. The Loons have been in discussions that coach Adrian Heath calls “very, very close” to re-signing Molino, who has been coached by Heath for nearly a decade.
Heath was asked after Sunday’s 3-0 first-round playoff victory over Colorado whether Molino — a Loon since their inaugural 2017 season — will return for a fifth season.
“You’re never 100% when players are in the final year,” Heath said. “We’ve sort of left the discussions with him. Hopefully, we can get to the stage where he signs a new deal and stays here.”
Molino on Sunday scored two goals for a second consecutive game and for the fourth time this season.
Molino, Reynoso and Lod contributed on all three goals Sunday at Allianz Field. Molino scored the first and last goals in the 22nd and 79th minutes Lod scored in the 54th minute. Reynoso assisted on all three with his vision and a deft passing touch that has transformed his new team since he arrived in September.
Molino underwent surgery to repair a torn ACL in both 2015 and 2018.
“It has been a rough road for me, the four years I have spent here,” Molino said in an ESPN on-field interview after Sunday’s game. You know, I tear my ACL and out for a year. I just feel so relieved, not just for me but for the whole group. We suffer a lot the first two years in MLS and the last two years have been and we continue going. Delighted for the win, but it was a team performance.”
Molino recently was named runner-up to Los Angeles FC’s Bradley Wright-Phillips for MLS Comeback Player of the Year despite a bothersome hamstring injury earlier this season.
“Bradley must have had a really good comeback year to beat Kevin Molino,” Heath said.
Molino and the Loons’ first playoff victory came 13 months after they lost their first playoff game 2-1 to the L.A. Galaxy at Allianz Field. They advance to play at top-seeded Sporting Kansas City on Tuesday or Wednesday.
“I think it shows that we’re progressing,” Heath said about Sunday’s victory. “We’re not standing still. We’re moving forward.”
Money well spent
Minnesota United’s ownership group paid $100 million for a MLS franchise, built $250 million Allianz Field and spent millions more to improve its Blaine facilities.
Now its investment in the club’s roster itself is paying off, as Sunday’s victory showed.
“I’ve said from the very beginning, we were in a very difficult spot when we started, with everything we had to try and build,” Heath said. “And we’ve done it. We’ve built really, really well off the field. Now we’re starting to build really, really well on the field … We’ve started to put it in the team and we’ve gotten better and better. That’s the message, really: That we can’t stand still.
“Regardless of where this journey ends this year, we will try and get better again the in offseason. We’re hoping to bring two or three players who will compete for starting places. That’s the nature of what we’re trying to do, incrementally getting better every transfer window.”