Adrian Heath pulled out all the stops to get Kevin Molino.
The 26-year-old attacker is joining Minnesota United FC after seeing a trade send him from Orlando City SC to the Land of 10,000 Lakes on Friday. Orlando received $450,000 in General Allocation Money and $200,000 in Targeted Allocation Money.
Heath had targeted the Trinidad & Tobago attacker for acquisition almost as soon as he was hired by MNUFC:
Asked Adrian Heath at the draft to give me an idea if the type of player he'd need back in a trade for the No. 1 pick. His response? Molino. https://t.co/jj0ojNp7jp— Sam Stejskal (@samstejskal) January 26, 2017
The $650,000 total is reportedly tied for the largest amount ever exchanged between MLS teams, which indicates that Minnesota is counting on Molino to be a cornerstone piece with the club going forward. For reference, the New York Red Bulls received $400,000 in General Allocation Money for 2015 Best XI midfielder Dax McCarty a few weeks ago. Molino came into MLS in 2015 after receiving the 2014 USL MVP award, but suffered a torn ACL early in the season. In 2016 Molino had a promising season as he returned to full health, registering 11 goals and eight assists.
With the addition of Molino, it seems Minnesota’s front four is set. Heath is expected to utilize a 4-2-3-1 formation, as he did in Orlando, and Molino, Miguel Ibarra, Johan Venegas and Christian Ramirez should fill those four spots.
Ibarra is slotted in as the left winger, with his ability to beat defenders one-v-one and pump in crosses, while also being goal dangerous. Ramirez is a classic No. 9 who has had no trouble finishing in the NASL over the past couple of seasons.
The roles that Venegas and Molino will occupy are a little less clear. Venegas has mostly struggled during his time in MLS, playing as a winger for the Montreal Impact. The Costa Rican has collected just two goals and one assist in 1,429 minutes. Many US national team fans will remember that Venegas looked very comfortable as a pressing No. 9, when he helped the Ticos defeat the US 4-0 back in November. He scored the opening goal in the 44th minute and pestered the US backline all night, forcing them into many mistakes.
While Molino’s production was more than adequate with Orlando in 2016, the Trinidadian did not always look comfortable at right wing for the club.
He played as a No. 10 for Orlando while they were in USL, but with the addition of Kaká, he was pushed out to the wing. There, he has not been able to show if he can be an elite chance creator in MLS.
In 2016, Molino created 1.63 chances per 90 minutes, which was the 49th highest rate in the league. Venegas created 1.84 chances per 90 minutes but did so in a small sample size of just 683 minutes.
What could be troubling for Loons fans is that every MLS Cup Playoff team last season had at least one player average 1.9 chances created per 90 minutes.
Ibarra, Molino and Venegas all have the potential to reach that number, and of the three it looks like Molino will get the keys to the car. With the amount of resources that Minnesota have used to acquire him, they'll certainly be hoping for an All-Star-caliber output in 2017.