Minnesota United trades defender Calvo to Chicago Fire
BLAINE, Minn. -- Francisco Calvo walked around Minnesota United’s training grounds in Blaine on Friday, May 2, saying goodbye to teammates, coaches and staff.
The Loons’ longest-tenured player, an MLS all-star and its primary captain over the past two-plus years, had just been traded to the Chicago Fire. In exchange, Minnesota receives at least $400,000 from two MLS budget funds, the club announced.
Wearing a black basketball jersey, Calvo shook hands and exchanged well-wishes with suddenly former colleagues. With a reputation for speaking his mind, having called out the league and media during his tenure, he was cordial and professional in his goodbyes. There also was a layer of unfinished business.
“See you in one week,” Calvo said to United sporting director Manny Lagos, who traded him away.
Calvo, who had fallen out of favor in Minnesota, will be waiting for the Loons when they visit Chicago for a game May 11. This will come quickly after Minnesota (4-3-2) plays the Seattle Sounders (5-1-3) at 7 p.m. Saturday at Allianz Field.
Minnesota United center back Ike Opara said it can be difficult to be traded for cash. Last winter, he was acquired from Kansas City for at least $900,000 in Targeted Allocation Money.
“You don’t really even know -- all this TAM, spam, jam, whatever nonsense it’s called sometimes,” Opara said. “It’s really hard to figure out what your market value is.”
When Opara heard the terms of his deal, he laughed “because I was thinking I hope I don’t suck.”
But Opara thinks a fiery Calvo will have “little bit of a different mind-set” on his departure since he was Minnesota’s captain.
United will receive $100,000 in General Allocation Money in both 2019 and 2020, and $50,000 in TAM in 2019 and $100,000 in TAM in 2020, the club said. United could receive an additional $150,000 in TAM based on Calvo’s performances in Chicago.
“It’s hard to assess when you’re not doing a player for a player in terms of their value and the finances,” Lagos told reporters. “It’s never going to feel completely right, but getting some roster flexibility for the summer (transfer) window is important.”
United also has an approximately 50 percent stake in a subsequent “sell-on” transfer fee if Calvo leaves MLS for another league, a source told the St. Paul Pioneer Press.
Lagos said Calvo’s rash tripping of Toronto FC’s Auro, which drew a red card in United’s 4-3 loss on April 19, had “zero” to do with Friday’s trade. But after the card, it became known some club leaders were exasperated with Calvo and were seeking a trade. The red card might not have been the final straw for Calvo, but it at least confirmed the team’s willingness to move on.
In Calvo’s first two years, he played primarily center back, and the Loons gave up an MLS combined two-year record 141 goals. He moved to left back, where he played with Costa Rica in the 2018 World Cup, but his defensive lapses, including simple effort, remained in this season’s first seven games.
Lagos dismissed a January report out of Costa Rica that Minnesota received a $2 million offer for Calvo, saying it was a “rumor” and no official offers were received. On the eventual timing of the trade, Lagos said: “These moments sometimes seem quick, but the reality is when we discuss the right fit and the right time and right place. That has to be more than just a weakened moment.”
Calvo, 26, played in 60 total games, all starts, for the Loons, wearing the captain’s armband more than any other Loon over the past three seasons. He put it on for the first time in Minnesota’s third game in 2017 and wore it consistently until two games ago.
Calvo’s red card meant a one-game suspension, which he served in the 0-0 draw with Los Angeles Galaxy on April 24. Then United coach Adrian Heath left an eligible Calvo out of the starting lineup and off the bench in Sunday’s 1-0 victory over D.C. United.
“I just didn’t want any negativity about the group,” Heath explained Sunday about his decision to leave Calvo out. “He’s obviously disappointed, and I thought it would be better if we left him out altogether.”
New defensive midfielder Ozzie Alonso has been Minnesota’s captain in the past two games and is expected to wear the armband against the Sounders, his former team, on Saturday night.
Without Calvo, Eric Miller has stepped into the starting lineup and helped produce the club’s first-ever consecutive shutouts. Miller, a Woodbury native, rookie Chase Gasper and midfielder Miguel Ibarra are available for that spot in the short term.
On Thursday, Minnesota received $225,000 in GAM from the Los Angeles Galaxy in exchange for $325,000 in TAM. This could be a precursor to another move with the current transfer window closing Tuesday, or another transaction for a left back in the more-active summer transfer window from July 7 to August 7.
Lagos said future moves before Tuesday’s window closes are “unlikely but not impossible.”
Over the past week, the club did not make Calvo available for interviews, and he has routinely been one of the first players off the field immediately following training sessions.
Miguel Ibarra, who heard about the trade Thursday night, said he will remember how Calvo was a good teammate in their two-plus years together. Ibarra recalled how Calvo set the standard with dress clothes in his introductory news conference and later encouraged him when he wasn’t in the starting lineup.
Heath said the trade’s timing a day before a game is eased since Calvo has not part of recent lineups.
“These are never done with anything personal; it’s what we think is the right move for us at this particular time,” Heath said. “Francisco made it aware he wanted to play center back. This moment we think we are OK there and we decided (a trade) was the right thing for us.”
Before last season, Minnesota had extended Calvo’s contract through the 2020 season, including options through 2022. Coming from Saprissa, Costa Rica’s top club, Calvo joined Minnesota in December 2016 after Heath went to the Central American country to court him.
Calvo, who had five goals and four assists as a Loon, was outspoken during his Minnesota tenure. He called out reporters and made headlines last March when he sounded off about a lack of respect he felt Minnesota received within MLS.
“I’m tired of how Major League Soccer gives a lot of credit to Atlanta or (expletive) LAFC, sorry for the word,” Calvo said after his own goal was the difference in a 1-0 loss to expansion franchise cousin Atlanta United. “… I think we deserve more respect in this league.”