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The United Beat

Jerry Zgoda writes about Major League Soccer and Minnesota United.

Loons Mailbag: Is there really competition for Emanuel Reynoso?

To our readers: Thank you for taking part in our Mailbag Monday this week. Star Tribune beat writers received many questions about the teams and leagues we cover, and each writer selected at least a couple of questions to answer. Look for a question and answer about each team in Wednesday’s Star Tribune.

Q. Heard there is another MLS team now in on acquiring Emanuel Reynoso. Is that true? If so who is the other club? -- @Kmarlow0713

Interesting, isn’t it? That Twitter chatter out of Buenos Aires has been out there for a couple weeks now. Yet in this world where everything eventually leaks, nobody has named that other MLS club. My instincts from doing this the last 35 years is that it’s a leak by Boca Juniors as a negotiating tactic seeking at least a $12 million transfer fee. The Loons had filed for and received his priority discovery rights, but I haven’t been able to get a definitive answer how long that can last until another MLS team is allowed to pursue.  

Q. What are the players up to? How are they staying fit? -- @atinklenberg

Best I can tell, they’re self-distancing at home. MLS has told players to remain in market until further advised. The league’s next update should come Friday. They’re not allowed to train as a team, or individually at their Blaine facility unless it’s physical therapy for an injury supervised by the team’s medical staff.

Players worked out at their own apartment’s gym when the state closed fitness centers, but most of those have been closed now, too. Jan Gregus, for one, ran stairs at his high-rise apartment building. Many have been getting outdoors for runs as they can, but it’s tricky trying to stay fit given an unprecedented situation like this.

Many of them, such as Tyler Miller and Ethan Finlay, have taken to social-media videos. Last wek Miller dressed up in a red Christmas suit and tie for the #StayAtHomeChallenge while juggling a roll of toilet paper with his feet. Miller also got out to see a little of Minnesota; he posted something from Taylors Falls recently.

Finlay has played keepaway from his dog Lola with a soccer ball and done pushups alongside the little fella, among other things.

The team’s training staff has come up with a plan for some players and issued some fitness challenges and nutrition ideas. I’ll hopefully have more on that for a story soon.

Q, Any idea how long it will be before MLS gives up the idea of playing a full season? -- @nathan3e

The league last Thursday said it “remains focused” on playing a full season even after it took the CDC’s recommendations and postponed all games into mid-May. That still gives time for this pandemic situation to change by then. If the CDC changes its recommendations beyond its original eight-week timeline, or if that mid-May date gets extended, then MLS almost certainly takes another look at it. The league’s next update is expected to come Friday. -- @nathan3e  

Q. What’s going on regarding any transfers in or out, including Reynoso? Any known plans for the summer window? -- @PatrickCaugh

For now, it seems like everything’s on hold until there’s clarity about when the season will resume. Adrian Heath vows they’ll play on quite happily with Kevin Molino at the No. 10 attacking midfielder spot. But he has an injury history, and that hamstring injury in the first half at San Jose was a reminder. The search for an upgrade at that position will go on probably into the July window, if it’s not Reynoso by then.

Loons' midfielder Molino has hamstring strain, home opener status in doubt

Injured in the first half Saturday at San Jose, Minnesota United veteran midfielder Kevin Molino rehabbed on his own Tuesday and coach Adrian Heath said he's “hopeful” Molino will be ready to play by Sunday for the home opener against New York Red Bulls.



Heath also called Molino, who had two goals and an assist in the season’s first game and a half, a probable “game-day decision.”

Molino walked off the field on his own just before halftime Saturday with an injury that Heath later called a "slight" hamstring strain.

“He’s had a really good start,” Heath said Tuesday. “We’d like that to continue.”

Playing the “No. 10” attacking midfielder so far this season, Molino sat on the grass with his legs outstretched and motioned to come out of the game in the 42nd minute of the Loons' 5-2 victory over the Earthquakes.

He was replaced by second-year midfielder Hassani Dotson, who won’t be an option if Molino can’t play Sunday. Dotson has been called to the U.S. national Under-23 team for Olympic qualifying play in Mexico later this month.

“We have that depth now,” Heath said. “We have one or two options to decide which way we go. If Kevin doesn’t make it, then we have people who have waited and are champing at the bit to get an opportunity. … Whoever has to step up, I’m fully confident they can step up and do the job Hassani has been trying to do for us over the last 12 months or so.”

New and improved

The Loons trained outdoors at Allianz Field on Tuesday morning for the first time this season, in preparation for their 6 p.m. Sunday game against the Red Bulls.

They ran and scrimmaged on the grass field that was replaced last season because of drainage issues after their regular-season finale and before the franchise’s first playoff game, a home loss to the L.A. Galaxy.

The grass was longer than it will be by Sunday.

“It’s in much better condition, for sure,” veteran defender Ike Opara said. “Obviously, there’s a little bit of slipping going around, but that happens when you haven’t touched the field for a while. I’ve got every bit of confidence in our groundskeeping crew.”

Something about sleeping dogs

Opara never got that text he expected from former San Jose teammate Chris Wondolowski – MLS’ all-time leading scorer with 159 – after Opara promised to take it easy on a guy who’s retiring after this season and then went up and over him to score on his second of two header goals Saturday.

“Surprisingly, I did not and I’m not going to wake up the monster there,” Opara said. “I’m just going to slide out and be quiet. We play them in a few weeks,  so I might hold off on reaching out until then. When he’s the leading goal scorer in MLS history, you just shut your mouth. You’ve got nothing to gain if you’re a defender.”

Ike aims high?

Opara is tied with Molino, teammate Luis Amarilla and six others for second in MLS in goals scored after two weeks, just behind Montreal’s Maximiliano Urruti’s three goals.

The two-time MLS Defender of the Year was asked Tuesday what would mean more -- a third such award or the MLS Golden Boot for being its leading goal scorer.

“Um, uh, one’s probably not realistic, so third Defender of the Year,” he said. “Obviously, I want to do well and help the team performance. That has always been my goal. Rewards and individual success always come from that.”

He said it

The Loons come home from their first two games the West Coast with a 2-0 record and an 8-3 advantage in goals.

They also might be bringing home what midfielder Ethan Finlay called “earned” respect from a lot of teams around MLS.

“I think there is a different level of respect for us now,” Finlay said. “I could say there’s a target on our back, but it’s on our front.”

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