Minnesota United’s midfield has never been the clubs weakest group but it also really has never been their strongest. However 2021 could prove to be pivotal at the position as the Loons have lost quite a few players of significance in the role following the 2020 season.
Kevin Molino, who was with the club since their first Major League Soccer season, left the Loons for Columbus Crew SC. Molino’s comment of “I want to lift trophies this year.” can be seen as a slight against MNUFC and their chances at doing such a thing.
Marlon Hairston also headed out for Columbus following the 2020 campaign, during the end of season roster cuts he was not cut or had an option declined but no contract would be agreed too.
Raheem Edwards also departed the club over the off-season as he was out of contract without a club option. Los Angeles Football Club then picked him up in the 2020 MLS Re-Entry Draft.
Another two midfielders have also been lost as just months after being picked up from Reno 1868 Kevin Partrida has his option declined and Sam Gleadle was released from MNUFC on March 11th.
So while the Loons did lose or release quite a few players they do have a solid core on their roster right now, Jacori Hayes, Ozzie Alonso, Ján Greguš, Emanuel Reynoso, Thomás Chacón, Ethan Finlay, Robin Lod, and Hassani Dotson all return from the 2020 squad. The Loons also picked up Wil Trapp from Inter Miami and Niko Hansen from Houston Dynamo to bolster the midfield ahead of what will hopefully be a normal 2021.
Even with a bolstered midfield the question still remains how the team will do on the attacking front. MNUFC, unlike most soccer clubs, never has had a preeminent striker that will score a majority of the teams goals. This has usually been left back to the midfielders, who not only need to move the ball up and counterattack but also end up finishing the play themselves. This was most evident last season with four of the Loons top five scorers not being forwards. The only forward in that bunch was Luis Amarilla tied for 4th with Ike Opara at just two goals. Kevin Molino led the team with 9 goals scored while Robin Lod (7) and Ethan Finlay (4) took up the next two spots. Molino would also finish fourth in assists behind Reynoso, Greguš, and Lod.
Not only do the Loons need to look at what they’ll do on the attacking front but they also need to figure out how to replace Molino’s production. In his only other full season (2017) Molino finished third in goals with seven and and topped the assist rankings with nine. Due to injury issues he did not play most of 2018 and 2019 but he did break out again in 2020.
Statistically speaking neither Trapp nor Hansen have the output that Molino has had during his time at MNUFC. Though Reynoso and Lod have looked extremely well at times with Robin Lod having improved leaps and bounds in 2020 alone. If the trajectory keeps up the midfield may not be as strong as it has been, but there may not end up being any need for worry.
Minnesota United FC opens the season on Friday, April 16th with an away match against Seattle Sounders at Lumen Field in Seattle, WA. Stay tuned to E Pluribus Loonum for all your 2021 MNUFC and Major League Soccer needs.