It was an attacking makeover for Minnesota United this winter, not too dissimilar to their defensive transformation this time last year which sparked a club-record season and a home Audi MLS Cup Playoffs match.
With one Designated Player spot open, Minnesota have been involved in a public chase of Boca Juniors attacking midfielder Emanuel Reynoso. The months-long saga has not reached a resolution just yet, but a move for the highly-rated attacking midfielder is still not off the table.
“That (Reynoso) situation has been spoken about a lot," Loons technical director Mark Watson told MLSsoccer.com Thursday. "I’d say it’s still a possibility, but more importantly, we’re in a really good situation where we could add players. We have a DP spot open. We have other spots and money to add players. But we really like this group, there’s no incredibly pressing need to sign additional players.”
Minnesota have a shortlist of other targets that they could pursue and they're not married to the third DP being an attacking midfielder.
“There is a lot of flexibility there," Watson said. "We’re an incredibly flexible team. If we’re looking at adding a No. 10, you see Kevin Molino proved he’s a very competent No. 10 again this weekend. Robin Lod can play No. 10. Thomas Chacon is a young DP who is working his way into the team, he’s a No. 10 as well.”
Chacon, the club's teenage Uruguayan attacking midfielder, was left off the matchday roster in the club's opening weekend win over the Portland Timbers. The young DP is a player Minnesota have high hopes for and are not rushing into the team. He has progressed well this preseason, with a few highlight-reel moments that trickled onto social media.
Should a deal for Reynoso or someone of his ilk come to fruition, the club won't hesitate, even if it will ramp up the already-high level of competition for Chacon and the others vying for the three attacking midfield places in Adrian Heath's preferred 4-2-3-1.
"If we add a player of top quality in a DP that fits that profile, then competition for those places is going to get even harder," Watson said. "That’s something we want. If you have to make a move down the line, then you have to make a move. We want to get as many good players as possible.”
Creating competition for the club's most promising youngsters manifested itself at center forward as well. Intent on adding more goals to the team, with Amarilla arriving at the club after topping the Ecuadorian league scoring charts on loan in 2019. It was the first season the 24-year-old had consistent playing time.
Amarilla initially appeared on the club's radar when they went to scout a different player. He stole the show with goals, work-rate and movement, while the club's initial target failed to impress. From there, the club dove into Amarilla's film as well as more scouting before ultimately bringing him aboard this winter, thankful to strike the deal now, after his first big season.
“Prior to (last year) he hadn’t played a lot, and therefore, hadn’t scored a lot of goals," Watson said. "We felt fortunate in terms of the timing. A player like that, if he has one good season, that’s great. If he has a second or third one? It’s a $20 or $30 million (transfer fee). We think the timing was really good.”
Amarilla is off the mark already, scoring on his debut and, with Schoenfeld, Minnesota are set with three forwards. The pathway to minutes for budding young striker Mason Toye isn't an easy one.
“That (discussion) was a really interesting one going into the offseason," Watson said. "Mason had moments last year where he was playing at an incredibly high level, he has all the tools to be a top striker, and an incredible work-rate. We have high hopes for Mason. He’s still a young player and learning, but he made great strides last year. We have great strength and competition for plays.”