Minnesota United FC head coach Adrian Heath wants the referees to look out for his star playmaker.
In Saturday’s 0-0 draw against Sporting Kansas City as part of Heineken Rivalry Week, Emanuel Reynoso was fouled on the decisive 21st-minute red card that prompted Remi Walter’s straight dismissal. He was felled twice more and still put up a game-high six key passes while nearly beating goalkeeper Tim Melia on several occasions.
But Heath feels their Argentine No. 10, who’s set to feature midweek in the MLS All-Star Game presented by Target, is getting the whack-a-mole treatment.
“It's every week. It's, 'Let's have a gang up. You do it first, I'll do it second, you do it third,'” Heath said. “People can complain – the stats are there every week. Talk about protection of big-time players in the league. I'm not about the sending off, by the way. I'm more about in general in you look at the game.”
Embedded in Heath’s remarks was some frustration about the Loons’ recent run of form. Over an eight-day span, they lost 1-0 at home against the LA Galaxy last weekend, drew 1-1 at the San Jose Earthquakes midweek and then settled for shared spoils against SKC at Allianz Field.
Against both San Jose and Sporting, Minnesota had 70-plus minutes of a man advantage. And while Reynoso’s treatment was a talking point postgame, Heath expected more with nine points available in the crowded Western Conference.
“I look at the week, Galaxy, San Jose and this game – we should be sitting on maybe seven points if you look at it logically, opportunities we've had, changes compared with the opposition, possession we've had, crosses, corners,” Heath said. “Every stat you want to think of, we've been miles ahead of everybody in all the games. So to only get two points is very disappointing. It's not like we haven't had opportunities again to win the game. Goals change games, I say it every week."
Reynoso could provide the spark, but so could fellow Designated Player Adrien Hunou. The striker was signed in late April from French Ligue 1 side Stade Rennais, though has just two goals and one assist in 13 games (12 starts).
Hunou hasn’t scored since a 1-0 win at Portland in late June, since going 10 matches without finding the back of the net. Injuries to wingers Robin Lod and Franco Fragapane are surely impacting his service, too.
“I think he's struggling from a lack of confidence at this moment in time, as strikers do when things aren't going well for you,” Heath said. “But you can't hide, you have to keep putting yourself in there, putting yourself in the right spot, hope that something drops for you and you get an opportunity. We've all been there and unfortunately he's going through one of them spells at this moment in time.”
Taken together, Heath feels Minnesota should’ve taken more from the SKC matchup, one that’s been dubbed the “Nicest Rivalry in Sports.” The encounter got feisty at times, including the physical treatment Reynoso received, and more tests of this order will prove quite telling for Minnesota’s big-picture ambitions.
"If we want to be what we want to be as a club going forward, there's going to be a lot of encounters against Kansas,” Heath said. “What is it, 10 [or] 12 years on the trot they've made the playoffs? If we're going to be where we are, then we're going to have a lot of games against them. And obviously with them being in the same conference, I think [the rivalry is] growing for sure.”