BLAINE, Minn. – After spending a year in MLS without signing any Designated Players, Angelo Rodriguez became Minnesota United’s second DP after transferring from Colombian side CD Tolima earlier this month.
On Wednesday, the Loons officially welcomed Rodriguez and introduced to the media at their practice facility. After the Colombian arrived late Monday night, he said he was already quickly acclimating to his new team, his first outside his home country.
“It's been really wonderful so far,” Rodriguez said through an interpreter. “It's a good group of people at this club.”
While the 5-foot-11 forward hasn’t played a competitive match since June, head coach Adrian Heath praised the fitness of Rodriguez, who had been training with his old club since the Colombian Apertura season ended.
“Physically, he feels very good,” Heath said. “It's nice the fact that he's come in in the condition he has.”
Rodriguez still won’t be traveling with the team for the Loons’ match at the Vancouver Whitecaps on Saturday (10 pm ET | TSN2 - full TV & steaming info), staying behind to work with the fitness staff. But the 29-year-old will likely see his MLS minutes at home against the Seattle Sounders on Aug. 4.
Just a couple DPs pic.twitter.com/r5WoL2EXMQ— Minnesota United FC (@MNUFC) July 25, 2018
Rodriguez will likely slot in at center forward, where Heath suggests his strength and hold-up play will bring an element the Loons currently don't have. And after talking to Rodriguez as well as people who had worked with him prior to his signing, Heath is convinced his desire to be in MLS will also pay dividends.
“He's very professional. Very serious," Heath said. He made it very clear to people that he wanted to come to the United States.”
Rodriguez had had interest from teams from Mexico and one of the largest clubs in Colombia, Atletico Nacional, but still decided to come to MLS after watching the league for some time from a distance.
"We were a little bit panicky because [he could have signed elsewhere],” Heath admitted, “but I think it's a sign of what MLS is becoming down in South America. The fact that [Miguel] Almirón and [Ezequiel] Barco and [Josef] Martínez have decided that this is a place to come and play, I think speaks volumes.”
Signing Rodriguez is an important step in the middle of the three-year plan that the coach has for Minnesota United as it gears up to open Allianz Field next spring. And it may not be the final step before the MLS secondary transfer window closes on Aug. 8.
“We want to try to put a team on that can compete when we move into the new stadium,” Heath said, “we're certainly nowhere near the finished article.”