Ramon Abila - Minnesota United debut - preseason

Minnesota United FC checked off an important box earlier this week when signing Ramon “Wanchope” Abila on a season-long loan from Boca Juniors, landing the Argentine forward with Targeted Allocation Money and maintaining a purchase option for beyond 2021.

The 31-year-old could strike up a sterling partnership with Emanuel “Bebelo” Reynoso, who joined the Loons last September from Boca Juniors and quickly ascended to premier chance-creator status in MLS. In fact, Abila said during his introductory press conference that his relationship with Reynoso helped convince him that a Minnesota move made sense.

Upon filling a key offseason hole, Extratime co-host David Gass believes head coach Adrian Heath’s team is a legitimate contender in 2021.

“They've got depth in central midfield, they've got options on the wing – it sounds like that might get even deeper for them,” Gass said. “So this is a legitimate Supporters' Shield and MLS Cup contender right now. I think they're in the top five in this league and they have to be tier one.”

As Gass referred to, the Loons are reportedly in discussions to add winger Franco Fragapane from Argentine side Club Atletico Talleres, the same side Austin FC midfielder Tomas Pochettino previously competed for. Just the other week, Heath said they’re in “very strong negotiations” to add several players ahead of their April 16 opener at the Seattle Sounders

Should preseason projections pan out, it’d mark a continuation of Minnesota’s progress after a challenging first two seasons in MLS. They made the U.S. Open Cup final in 2019 and reached the Western Conference Final in 2020, falling to Seattle. 

All along, they’ve carefully mined the international transfer market for talent and built their roster through domestic means. Extratime co-host Andrew Wiebe is particularly impressed with what attacking midfielder Robin Lod and central midfielder Jan Gregus offer, then the Wanchope-Reynoso dynamic only bolsters Minnesota's outlook.

“To go get a Finnish international who's probably going to be playing in Euros, to go get a Slovakian international [who's] probably going to be playing in Euros, to get the center forward and a 10 from Boca and have it just be like, 'Hey, this is what we do,' that is a huge, huge turnaround and just organizationally, the vision, the ambition and then the execution in the transfer market," Wiebe said. "So, congratulations to Minnesota United. It seems like you're going to get a left winger as well.”

For more on Minnesota’s latest coup, check out the full Extratime episode here.