By Mike Rice.
Emanuel Reynoso is one of the best in his position in Major League Soccer and the star of the Minnesota United team.
With the new season approaching, United head coach Adrian Heath has not eased fans’ concerns, after they noted Reynoso’s absence from preseason so far.
There is currently no timetable for the designated player’s return from Argentina, where he is currently dealing with personal matters.
The attacking midfielder is their creative spark as well as one of their biggest goal threats. He managed 10 goals and six assists in a season which saw him the club’s top scorer while they limped into the playoffs.
Minnesota lost six of their last seven games in 2022 after an injury to Bakaye Dibassy left them short in defence, before being knocked out in the first round of the playoffs by FC Dallas.
Heath has been operating without his star player in preseason, and has lost two of his first three preseason games, drawing the other with Philadelphia Union.
Notebook: Knowns and unknowns on the status and whereabouts of #MNUFC star Emanuel Reynoso — and even if #MLS All-Star were to arrive Wednesday, his ability to play in opener would be in doubt; Miguel Tapias joins #Loons and plugs right in; other items. https://t.co/kkcbOw8ih9
— Andy Greder (@andygreder) February 7, 2023
Going forward, Minnesota have struggled to find consistency from their other players. Luis Amarilla up front managed nine goals in 2022, a total which is well behind what a DP striker will be expecting.
He himself knows this, while Minnesota have made it clear they could use an improvement at centre forward having previously been linked with South Korean strikers Cho Gue-sung and Hwang Ui-jo, though nothing has come from these links.
Heath’s fondness for a 4-2-3-1 formation has seen inconsistencies from his wide players too. Franco Fragapane and Bongokuhle Hlongwane put in some good performances, though they were separated by too many average performances.
This season will see a number of sides in the Western Conference improve. Seattle Sounders will not have CONCACAF Champions League to deal with, Portland Timbers have improved by bringing in a new designated player, Evander.
Dibassy will be at least until May, so there is a real need for senior players to step up and provide consistently high levels of performance.
Heath needs to come up with options for the number 10 role. Even if Reynoso was to return soon, he has missed a long period of time from the team and will need to build up match fitness.
Robin Lod has been a Swiss army knife of a player for Minnesota and could be used in place of Reynoso once the MLS season kicks off. He put in quality performances on the wing as well as up front and in the centre of midfield last season.
What Minnesota lack without Reynoso is his creativity on the ball. The team have no one like him. Many MLS sides would struggle in similar situations — compare it to Nashville without Hany Muhktar.
The club don’t have a DP spot available as Mender Garcia and Luis Amarilla both fill those spots. Heath will need to bring Garcia on further this season, but it can be difficult to see him going away from his favoured lone striker system.
Time will tell if a new approach could be put into use, or if someone can step up to be a creative driving force.
For Minnesota United fans though, each day will be filled with hope for news of Reynoso’s imminent return in what could be a tough season ahead.