Eight elements in play for Minnesota United in potentially big transfer window
Loons technical director Mark Watson told the Pioneer Press on May 31 the club has “four or five scenarios” for when the secondary transfer window opens July 7 and closes Aug. 4
Minnesota United has a month until the summer transfer window opens, and the club is exploring how and where it might try to infuse talent into this year’s roster.
The Loons have aspirations to finish in the top four spots in the Western Conference, and, in the process, earn a home game in the MLS Cup Playoffs. But they entered their three-week FIFA break sitting just outside the seven-team playoff field and six points out of a slot to host a playoff game in St. Paul.
“We’ve got an opportunity to freshen things up, if we want to, and we’ve got some big decision to make,” manager Adrian Heath said after the team’s 1-0 loss to New York City on May 28.
Loons technical director Mark Watson told the Pioneer Press on May 31 the club has “four or five scenarios” for when the secondary transfer window opens July 7 and closes Aug. 4.
“We always do continuous planning,” Watson said. “… Once the window opens, if those (scenarios) are still relevant, then we’ll potentially look to address.
“But it’s a funny balance of the space available, the international spots, the money you have available,” Watson explained. “If you are looking to create space, can (an acquisition) actually happen? Can these things collide where it works out?”
Here are eight bullet points on MNUFC’s current roster compliance and possible opportunities to maneuver:
1. Two of 20 senior roster spots are available.
The pair of slots were opened with Chase Gasper’s trade to Los Angeles Galaxy in May and Hassani Dotson’s torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee in April leading to him going on the season-ending injured list.
Watson mentioned the current roster is on the verge of improving with former MLS All-Star right back Romain Metanire nearing a return to games. The 32-year-old has played only 22 minutes this season due to hamstring issues, but after eight weeks of rehab he participated in short-sided games in late May.
2. One of eight international roster spots is vacant.
Seven are occupied by Emanuel Reynoso, Adrien Hunou, Luis Amarilla, Franco Fragapane, Kervin Arriaga, Bongi Hlongwane and Joseph Rosales.
This means MNUFC wouldn’t need to strike a trade with another MLS club for a international slot, if the club wants to add foreign talent.
3. “Not a ton of cap space,” according to Watson.
How close the Loons are up against MLS’ $4.9 million salary budget is unknown, but this league-wide mark has remained unchanged from 2021 season. While it is expected to increase to $5.2 million next year, that stagnant number isn’t helping MNUFC’s overall ability to maneuver.
4. One Designated Player spot offers flexibility.
Amarilla’s signing falls in the “restricted DP” category, so the club has the option of using Targeted Allocation Money to remove him from one of three DP slots which don’t count against salary budget. Hunou’s and Reynoso’s DP spots can’t be finagled like this.
“The challenge would be, do you have the TAM to convert (Amarilla)?” Watson said. “That’s the question.”
5. Two “top-level” goalkeepers for one starting spot.
Tyler Miller was in net for the opening two games this season until he got sick on the day of the third game. Dayne St. Clair stepped in and has played at a MLS Best XI-level in 12 games since then.
Minnesota has an estimated $750,000 tied up in the two players’ guaranteed compensation for 2022, per MLS Players’ Association figures. With Miller on an expiring contract at season’s end, trading away the 29-year-old might be an avenue to acquire TAM.
‘We looked at offers for both of them in the offseason; there was a fair bit of chatter,” Watson said. “Nothing ever really got close to materializing. But I don’t think it’s a secret that we have two really top-level goalkeepers. If a team needs a goalkeeper, I’m sure they’re looking in our direction.”
Given St. Clair’s rise to stardom, bigger clubs, potentially in Europe, could start to reach out to MNUFC about acquiring the 25-year-old Canadian.
“I think we’re headed down that path,” Watson said of reaching interest in potentially selling on St. Clair. “He’s a young, talented kid, and done really well. We fully expect that to happen, and we’ll include that in our in our decision-making process.”
6. Two of three Under-22 Initiative roster slots sit open.
The signing of Hlongwane from South Africa before the 2022 season filled one spot, but given Amarilla’s contract terms, MLS rules allow MNUFC to sign two more young players in this category. The player would need to be born in 2000 or later, and transfer fees to acquire such a player are not limited.
Asked if U22 additions are more likely this summer or next offseason, Watson said: “That could very much come into play in this window.”
The Loons’ current roster is one of the five oldest in MLS, so a youthful infusion is an important element toward continued success.
7. Passports being stamped.
Director of player personnel Amos Magee and newly hired scout Harrison Heath are among two Loons employees who have been jet-setting around the globe in efforts to see talent in-person. Owner Bill McGuire views first-hand evaluation as an important step in appraising prospects.
8. Contract extension and option years for current players.
MNUFC is working on offers to a few players, Watson said. Some have options to be picked up by the club for 2023. Captain midfielder Wil Trapp’s contract for next year will automatically kick in when the 29-year-old reaches two-thirds of games played this season, the Pioneer Press has learned.
While these are some of the primary areas in play for MNUFC this summer, the club will continue to tinker with its available assets to reach ultimate goals. “Sometimes you need to make a deal to create space to then make the change you want to make,” Watson said.
If the Loons are able to set the table in the proper fashion, it could mean a big addition for Minnesota this transfer window.
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