At least one Loons fan made a written request ahead of last weekend’s game against LA Galaxy: “We strongly encourage our team to score goals,” read a simple black and white sign hanging in the supporters section of Allianz Field.
Minnesota United delivered a 3-0 victory last Saturday – the club’s first three-goal game of the season. This follows what winger Ethan Finlay called an “embarrassing” 4-0 loss to Sporting Kansas City on Wednesday.
“I felt like this group needed a little validation,” Finlay said Thursday. Minnesota had been shut out in four of the previous six games and was no longer qualified for the Western Conference playoffs.
With the return of goal creators Robin Lod and Emanuel Reynoso, Minnesota (9-8-7) have claimed a key win, reclaimed an MLS playoff spot and are looking to make it a mini winning streak against Houston. Dynamo (5-10-11) at 7pm Saturdays at St. Paul.
Saturday will be the first home game with fans in attendance against former designated player Loons Darwin Quintero, who was traded after the 2019 season.
Quintero, who is tied for the Loons’ all-time lead with 21 regular season goals, will be motivated against his former club. He’s only played 453 minutes for Houston this season, but has been a spark in the last few games. He just scored his first goal of the season, a penalty kick in a 3-2 victory over FC Dallas last Saturday.
Quintero has scored in two previous games against Minnesota in Houston, both in the 2020 season. Although he may be a dynamic attacking player, the 34-year-old Colombian has been fired from United, in part because he would check defensively. If he does so on Saturday, it could provide an easier path for the Loons.
Quintero’s guaranteed compensation for 2021 is $ 1.35 million, according to figures from the MLS Players Association, a huge sum for a single goal so far. That’s about $ 350,000 more than the Loons’ highest paid player, Reynoso, who earns $ 966,910 per MLSPA.
The Loons are expected to add a new second team to MLS’s creation of a lower tier league starting next season. United determine where this team will be based and play home games.
“We are really optimistic that this will be settled next year which will be great for all young players,” said Heath.
Outgoing CEO Chris Wright wasn’t as determined on this to be the plan earlier this year.
With the second team comes the need for more players. Minnesota has had a handful of young players who have crossed the United States on short-term loans; they would appear as part of the club’s expanded operations in the lower level professional league.
Fourth-row Loons goalie Fred Emmings, along with Patrick Weah, Aziel Jackson, Nabi Kibunguchy and others are among the top contenders.
In the meantime, the club are exploring options for Emmings, a 17-year-old from Saint-Paul, to train for a few weeks with an English Premier League side.
Mukwell Akale continues to train with the Loons this season. The 24-year-old Minneapolis native, who has played in leagues in Spain and Cyprus, could also be in the race for a place in the Loons’ second team in 2022.
This week’s announcement of an expanded League Cup between MLS and Mexican Liga MX surprised MLS Players’ Association leaders, union representative Finlay said. They will wait for more information on the format – and the corresponding requirements on players’ time – when it becomes available ahead of kick-off in 2023.… Midfielders Hassani Dotson (knee), Jan Gregus (foot) and Justin McMaster (thigh) treated their injuries this week and won’t be in the mix on Saturday. Juan Agudelo and Niko Hansen have returned to full training this week and should be available for the Loons against Dynamo. … The Loons did not lose to Houston at Minnesota in MLS (3-0-2), allowing just three goals. … It will be interesting to see if Amos Magee, director of personnel for Loons players, is in the mix for any of the GM / athletic director vacancies in MLS. Houston has one. San Jose would have four finalists, but Magee was not in that group. Magee was interviewed for the role of general manager of DC United last spring. … The Loons continue to negotiate with goaltender Dayne St. Clair for a new contract. Minnesota locked up the other two players in their strong 2019 draft class: midfielder Hassani Dotson (three) and fullback Chase Gasper (four). Both of these offers start next season. … With five assists in nine games, winger Franco Fragapane is second in MLS in assists per game (0.56). … The Loons have an array of events and touches for Saturday’s Hispanic Legacy game.