This is the second time Molino will miss a season due to a torn ACL – he played just seven games for Orlando City in 2015 before tearing his right ACL – and it comes as a huge blow to Minnesota United, which now must move forward without one of their best players.
Molino, 27, had two goals and one assist through 140 minutes this season before going down with the injury in his first trip back to Orlando since being traded to Minnesota ahead of the 2017 season.
Minnesota will surely struggle to replace Molino’s production and ability in the final third, but United coach Adrian Heath said his biggest concerns are for the player he first signed out of Trinidad and Tobago when coaching Orlando City in the USL in 2011.
“My relationship with Kevin goes back a long way, I’ve always been very close with him, I’ve always had a great belief in his ability as a player,” Heath told MLSSoccer.com. “I know how devastating this will be for him. … The fact that he is going to miss the season is a huge blow for everybody, but especially the kid. The one thing about Kev is he lives for playing football, he loves playing football, he’ll play every day, all day. We had a really good chat in the offseason about how he had to be a leader for the group and he had a great start to the season, so it’s a huge blow for everybody concerned.”
Molino is expected to undergo surgery in the coming weeks. Heath said the team will have to find a way to overcome the emotional letdown of losing a player so important to what they do, as well as a leader who is well-regarded in the locker room. The Loons host the Chicago Fire on Saturday in their home opener (2 pm ET | MLS LIVE; on DAZN in Canada).
Minnesota United will now try to figure out the best way forward. Heath said the team will explore changing formations or moving players around to find the best mix without Molino in the fold. They are also hoping to announce “a couple players” in the next few days that may help ease the loss, Heath said. Heath declined to identify the players or positions.
“That will certainly help us because it’s a couple more bodies we believe can play in the starting 11,” Heath said. “Now it might just change what we are looking to bring in, as well. It wasn’t a secret we were down [in Colombia] trying to do Nicolas Benedetti, who can play in that position, and whether we re-up our scouting to look for that position, another No. 10 elsewhere, and tweak the shape internally, we’ll talk about it in the next day or two.”
How Minnesota are able to bounce back from Molino’s injury will surely be a key factor for a team hoping to surpass expectations for a second straight season.