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United coach headed to Latin America to fill Kevin Molino's spot

Minnesota United head coach Adrian Heath acknowledges the crowd after his team defeated Orlando City SC in May 2017 at TCF Bank Stadium in Minneapolis. Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports

ST. PAUL — Minnesota United coach Adrian Heath and sporting director Manny Lagos will travel to Latin America on Wednesday, March 14, to scout an attacking player that could help fill the void left by Kevin Molino's season-ending knee injury. reported that player is Colombian Darwin Quintero and that the Loons leaders will watch the CONCACAF Champions League game between Quintero's Mexican side, America, against Tauro FC in Panama.

Heath declined to comment on the report on Quintero, a 30-year-old playmaker who would be the Loons' highest-profile addition yet. United made a concerted attempt during the offseason to acquire young Colombian attacker Nicolas Benedetti, but fell short.

"You will very rarely hear me talk about players that we haven't signed," Heath said. "Obviously the Benedetti thing was a little bit different because they came out with it, so I'm not going to comment on any players that we might bring in."

But Heath said the scouting mission is part of a broad approach before the MLS transfer window to acquire domestic or international players closes on May 1. "We have one or two other things that might be going on as well," Heath said.

With Molino out with a torn ACL in his left knee suffered in Saturday's 2-1 victory at Orlando, Heath said the club's thoughts are with the Trinidad midfielder.

While they were in Orlando, Heath saw Molino recover from a torn ACL in his right knee seven games into the 2015 season. In 2016, he had 11 goals and eight assists for Orlando.

"It's a real blow for the kid, but I saw the way he reacted from his last one," Heath said. "Once he gets over that initial disappointment, I'm sure he will react in exactly the same way as he did last time, which was unbelievable."

Heath will have to alter his approach without Molino for the home opener against Chicago Fire at 1 p.m. Saturday at TCF Bank Stadium.

"Whether we bring somebody in a similar position or whether we tweak the shape a little bit of the group, that's decisions we will have to make in the next few days, certainly for the Chicago game," Heath said. "But more importantly what we do between the medium and long term will depend on if we can bring the right player into the club."

Different for Danladi

The start of Abu Danladi's rookie season in 2017 was limited because of his back and hamstring issues, but he bounced back to finish with eight goals and was runner-up in MLS rookie of the year voting.

Danladi has started his sophomore season with a left hamstring injury that carried over from preseason to a tweak in the season opener. It caused him to miss Saturday's game in Orlando.

"I'd like to think it's an anomaly, but we don't know," Heath said of the comparison to last season.

Danladi lightly trained on the side Tuesday, while rookie Mason Toye, who made his MLS debut and contributed to Ethan Finlay's winning goal versus Orlando, was a full participant. Toye could ease the burden for Danladi to return in the short term.

"The fact that we've got Mason in — and I think he showed in brief glimpses at the weekend — will give us a bit more time," Heath said. "This time last year we were rushing players back because we didn't have the depth. Now we've got some depth. If we have to play Mason from the start ... I have every faith that he will be able to play."

Nicholson's best

Sam Nicholson displayed a fiery work ethic in the win over Orlando, and Heath said it was the Scottish winger's best performance since he was acquired last summer.

"I thought he looked more like himself, very direct," Heath said. "(Scott) Sutter is not an easy player to play against. He gave him a torrid time for about an hour. It was good."

Nicholson tweaked his hamstring against Orlando and was subbed off in the 67th minute. He trained alongside Danladi on Tuesday.

"He should be OK for the weekend," Heath said about the home opener.


Cameroonian center back Bertrand Owundi Eko'o made his first appearance in United's training session Tuesday. His immigration paperwork has cleared and he's eligible to play in games.

Brazilian holding midfielder Luiz Fernando is expected to arrive Wednesday at the earliest.