Minnesota United announced a flurry of roster decisions Friday, but it was the lack of conclusions on three starters — Ozzie Alonso, Luis Amarilla and Kevin Molino — that were the most important takeaways.
Loons manager Adrian Heath said the club is in discussions with club captain Ozzie Alonso on coming back for the 35-year-old Cuban’s 13th MLS season.
“As you’d expect the way that Ozzie is, he still thinks he could play 40 games next season,” Heath said. “… We think he can still play, whether that is every game, that might have to be something that we discuss. … He still has stuff to contribute to us.”
Alonso missed 40 percent of the 2020 season with injuries, and the club is pursuing a deal for Will Trapp, 27, who plays the same defensive midfielder spot and is out of contract with Inter Miami. The member of the U.S. men’s national team played 21 of 23 games for the expansion franchise last season.
Molino was the Loons’ hottest scorer en route to their Western Conference final loss on Monday, and Heath said they are doing everything they can to bring the Trinidad midfielder back under a new contract.
“It’s the max deal he can get in America, so we can’t really do an awful lot (more),” Heath said. “I get it if he wants to see what’s out there. I understand, but we are hoping that he accepts it and decides to come back.”
If Molino doesn’t return, it could spark other moves.
Heath said the club is in ongoing talks with Argentina club Velez Sarsfield about Luis Amarilla coming back. It’s unclear if that could be another one-year loan or a purchase agreement. Before Minnesota, Amarilla was on loan in Ecuador, which could be a driver for Velez wanting a conclusion in a sale or a return.
“The most important thing of all is he wants to be here,” Heath said. Amarilla, who had season-ending ankle surgery after playing in only 37 percent of games, will head to South America in the next week to talk to Velez.
“Even if we bring Luis back, we are actively in this moment in negotiations to bring another forward in,” Heath said. “If Luis comes back, he won’t be the only striker that we sign.”
Heath said he’s looking for at least three quality players to compete for starting spots in defense, midfield and attack, with more depth behind them.
That will include up to two new Designated Players to go along with Emanuel Reynoso. United would need to change deals for Jan Gregus and Thomas Chacon to free up the slots.
“We want to be quiet aggressive in what we are trying to do,” Heath said. “We are down the road on a couple of these situations that if we were able to pull them off would be big, big signings for the club.”
With 2019 MLS defender of the year Ike Opara only playing two games in March, Heath said the club wants to come up with a plan of action to move forward.
“Not only is he a big player for us, but he has a big salary there, and obviously we’d like to come to a conclusion,” Heath said.
Heath acknowledged Opara’s concussion history is in play but said other things also are factors. “He feels a lot better than he has been,” Heath said. The Loons want to encourage Opara to consider his long-term health but also don’t want to have this as an on-again off-again issue in 2021 .
Season-opening starting goalkeeper Tyler Miller is rehabbing his surgeries to both hips in California to order to be healthy when preseason begins. … Chacon is pretty close to going out on loan to a club in Europe when the window opens in January.
Contract options picked up: Ethan Finlay; Dayne St. Clair; Hasssani Dotson; Chase Gasper; Noah Billingsley; Foster Landsdorf; Sam Gleadle.
Club in discussions with on future: Alonso; Molino; Amarilla; Brent Kallman; Marlon Hairston; Jacori Hayes.
Contract options declined: Jose Aja, Aaron Schoenfeld, James Musa; Greg Ranjitsingh; Kevin Partida.
Out of contract: Kei Kamara; Raheem Edwards.
Rostered players: Reynoso; Gregus; Opara; Miller; Robin Lod; Chacon; Michael Boxall; Romain Metanire; Bakaye Dibassy; Adrian Zendejas; Fred Emmings.