Minnesota United now pursuing 2 South Korean forwards
Sources told the Pioneer Press this week Minnesota holds the MLS discovery rights to both Korean forwards.
ST. PAUL -- Minnesota United is looking to pull off a South Korean double.
Days after the Loons’ efforts to bring in Cho Gue-Sung first surfaced, the club is making another run at Hwang Ui-Jo. MNUFC attempted to bring in Ui-Jo in last summer, but his former club, Bordeaux, turned down a reported offer of $5 million.
Sources told the Pioneer Press this week Minnesota holds the MLS discovery rights to both Korean forwards, and the simultaneous pursuits of both players might not be considered an either-or situation.
Last summer, the Loons went “quite a ways down the line” toward acquiring Ui-Jo from French club Bordeaux, Loons technical director Mark Watson told the Pioneer Press, but the situation was complicated by Bordeaux’s financial straits in going from Ligue 1 to Ligue 2. Now, MNUFC is renewing that effort.
International reporter Fabrizio Romano said Thursday that MNUFC has made an official proposal to Ui-Jo’s club, Nottingham Forest of the English Premier League. Forest paid a transfer fee of $3.6 million to Bordeaux for the 30-year-old last year and then loaned him out to Greek club Olympiakos. That loan will be terminated, Romano said.
Forest has sought a loan from Minnesota for Ui-Jo, but MNUFC wants a deal to be a full transfer, one source said.
The Loons’ efforts to bring in Cho are considered more advanced, with a reported $5 million offer to Cho’s Korean club Jeonbuk. The Loons feel confident in their proposal’s salary figure for Cho and in its expected assistance toward obtaining U.S. green cards for Cho, 25, and his extended family.
Minnesota will have intra-MLS competition for Ui-Jo with Los Angeles FC, Portland Timbers, Chicago Fire and Vancouver Whitecaps also “concretely interested,” Romano said.
Loons manager Adrian Heath said the club has looked at South Korea specifically over the past year and that the Asian country’s talent stretches to the Under-23 and U20 sides.
“As they proved in the World Cup, they are incredibly disciplined, hard-working professionals and can play,” Heath said. “… We think there is a lot of good players down there.”
Both Cho and Ui-Jo played in all four of South Korea’s World Cup matches in Qatar. The team made a surprise run to the round of 16.
Still no Reynoso
The Loons expected MLS All-Star midfielder Emanuel Reynoso to be participating in preseason camp in Blaine this week, but he remained in Argentina as of Thursday. The hangup is immigration paperwork and it’s not tied to the potential trial over an assault charge he faces in his home country, a club spokesperson said.
The club now expects Reynoso and Kemar Lawrence to join the team in the next few days. MNUFC will head to Florida for its next stage of preseason work on Sunday.
Robin Lod returned from the MLS media/marketing event in California to train with the team Thursday. Also, Franco Fragapane, who just arrived from Argentina, was one of the sharpest players in Thursday’s drills. He scored and assisted on multiple goals and was goal-dangerous on other occasions.
The Loons paid USL League One club Union Omaha a transfer fee of $50,000 for fullback Ryen Jiba, a source said. Minnesota selected Jiba 19th overall in the 2023 MLS draft. Born in Pasco, Wash., Jiba signed with MNUFC for 2023, with club options for 2024-26. Jiba, who had surgery for a torn meniscus on Nov. 2, is returning to training after a two-month rehab process. … The Loons said Thursday they will play an international friendly against German second-division side FC Kaiserslautern at Allianz Field at 7:30 p.m. June 28. … The Loons will replace their blue “river” kit this season. While details aren’t known, supporters can rest assured the new look will not return to white. … It’s doubtful MNUFC brings back midfielder Jonathan Gonzalez on another loan from Liga MX side Monterrey in 2023. … If the Loons bring in both Cho and Ui-Jo, there appears to be an untenable logjam at the No. 9 spot with strikers Luis Amarilla and Mender Garcia currently on the roster. … Center back Bakaye Dibassy (quad) is ahead of schedule in his rehab but will be out “months rather than weeks,” Heath said. “It was a really bad injury.” … The Loons’ prospective center back signing from Liga MX would not be expected to join Minnesota until this summer, while the club’s other center back signing, an Under-22 Initiative addition from Europe, would join the team much sooner than that. … Canadian goalkeeper Dayne St. Clair was spotted working out on the side at the National Sports Center on Thursday. The Loons’ lone World Cup participant received a few extra days off before rejoining the Loons.
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