Reynoso Minnesota

The drawn-out nature of Emanuel Reynoso’s 2020 arrival to MLS from the Argentine Primera División has been well-documented.

That patience has more than paid off for Minnesota United FC, who originally signed the midfielder from Boca Juniors two Secondary Transfer Windows ago. Just ask head coach Adrian Heath, who’s quick to offer plaudits when given the chance.

“In terms of just making things happen out of nothing, from being facing the wrong way running towards his own goal… [Reynoso] could turn on a dime and then pick a pass that you know is so sublime that if you put things on for him, you've got opportunities,” Heath told MLSsoccer.com. “This guy's got that special quality of being able to pick a pass through a tiny window and you know, his timing and his way to pass are exceptional.”

Now, Reynoso could very well be the deciding factor behind whether or not the Loons make the Audi 2021 MLS Cup Playoffs. They have two regular-season games remaining, starting with a Halloween tilt this Sunday against the Western Conference-leading Sporting Kansas City at Allianz Field (1 pm ET | ESPN, ESPN Deportes) that's their biggest test of the season.

MNUFC can get eliminated from postseason contention if several results don’t fall their way, or they could vault as high as fifth place (UPDATE: Real Salt Lake lost, so they can no longer be eliminated). Thus is the condensed nature of the postseason race during this time of year, which has Minnesota in eighth place and one spot shy of the playoffs.

Reynoso understands the importance of the match and how MNUFC’s fortunes could fall on his shoulders. He has four goals and 10 assists through 27 games (26 starts) this year, and MLS-wide he has the most touches (756) in the final third, per Second Spectrum data. His 86 key passes are second in the league and only trail New England's Carles Gil.

“As I’ve been saying, it’s been neck and neck. A lot of teams fight amongst each other, big teams, big clubs and we have to be attentive and competitive in every match that we play because we take them as finals,” Reynoso said through a translator. “Honestly, we have a very important match this Sunday where we have to come out and win in front of our people. Like I said, this season everyone was on the same level, all very close and big clubs that are fighting. So we have to keep contending to try and get in.”

The game could have some déjà vu, as the Loons knocked out the No. 1-seeded SKC from the 2020 playoffs, a game where Reynoso put on a clinic with three assists during a 3-0 victory at Children’s Mercy Park. Upon marching to last year’s Western Conference Final, he eventually finished with two goals and 14 assists in 16 games across the regular season and playoffs.

Those were the early signs of a left-footed playmaker who, at 25, wanted to prove himself in this new challenge.

“I gave my all in Boca [Juniors], I tried to play a lot of games. But, honestly, I didn’t have a lot of continuity and so I decided to look for another route,” Reynoso said. “The opportunity presented itself to come here to Minnesota, I saw the interest and quickly decided to come. I liked the league, the stadium, the league is getting better all the time so I quickly decided to come.”

“Thankfully we had a great season last year where we were close to being champions. But now we’re on another objective which is to qualify for the playoffs and try to get as far as possible and be champions. But we’re going step by step and calm.”

A year ago, much of Reynoso’s success was sparked by a partnership with now-Columbus Crew attacker Kevin Molino. But the Trinidad and Tobago departed last offseason via free agency, and Minnesota’s attacking core instead became Robin Lod, Franco Fragapane and Adrien Hunou. Lod’s a well-established Finland international, while Fragapane (from Argentina’s Talleres) and Hunou (from France’s Rennes) joined this year. Hunou, alongside Reynoso, is a Designated Player for Minnesota.

The only frustration is the Loons’ No. 10 was hampered by injuries this summer. Heath believes it’s “now or never” for Reynoso to be at his best, which in the coach’s eyes is “one of, if not the best player in the league.”

“One of the disappointments for me this year has been the fact that we haven't had that from four together enough, that he could really work with Hunou, work with Fragapane and with Robin Lod because I do believe, and we've seen glimpses of it, that that's a really really good four at the front,” Heath said. “So that's been a bit disappointing. We've had spells of injuries where one of them's been out for weeks on end and they haven't gelled as quickly and as nicely as I probably would have liked.”

Overcoming those obstacles has been a theme for Minnesota all season after beginning their campaign with four straight losses and losing five starting XI players to injuries throughout the summer. Despite the hindrance, Reynoso feels ready to compete and that the Loons are at their best heading into Sunday’s contest against Sporting KC.

“We had a lot of injuries. We have a strong roster but with a lot of injuries to a lot of important players for us. We felt it in every game,” Reynoso said. “Then I got injured and wasn’t able to recuperate as quickly. Thanks to the medical staff of this club who are always at the disposal of the players and are working every day to help make sure we’re ready for each match. That helped us a lot throughout the season, but now we’re all healthy. Contending for, like I said, to qualify and get Minnesota to the top.”

With Reynoso in the driver's seat, it’s all-or-nothing for Minnesota.

“Win the next one and we’re probably in the playoffs,” Heath said. " ... There’s a few teams playing each other, like LA [Galaxy] and Vancouver, so that could maybe keep us in it, but like I said a few weeks ago, this is going to go down to the last game I believe.”