ST. PAUL — Minnesota United is poised to reconfigure its attack this offseason, changes that could include trading away its figurehead and cutting deeper into the supporting cast.
Central attacking midfielder Darwin Quintero has been put on the trading block, with the Loons eyeing Orlando striker Dom Dwyer in return, a source told the St. Paul Pioneer Press. United coach Adrian Heath, given more power in personnel decisions this offseason, has pointed to Dwyer as one of his success stories when they were together earlier in their careers.
Dwyer, 29, had seven goals and four assists last season, and 13 goals and no assists in 2018. His guaranteed compensation last year was $1.5 million.
United has a $2 million, 2020 contract option on Quintero, whose relationship with Heath fractured when the coach left him out of the starting lineup for the U.S. Open Cup final in August.
The Loons added five key players to its defense and the back half of its spine last offseason; now the focus changes to the top half in the attack.
According to sources, the Loons are exploring moving on from attacking midfielders Kevin Molino and Ethan Finlay. Added in 2017, both veterans suffered season-ending knee injuries in 2018. Finlay scored seven goals this season, second on the team to Quintero’s 10.
In the wake of Minnesota’s 2-1 loss to the Los Angeles Galaxy in the first round of the MLS Cup playoffs Oct. 20, forward Angelo Rodriguez was also deemed “unlikely” to return next season, a source said. The same goes for Miguel Ibarra, who has a 2020 contract option but didn’t play in the last eight games and scored only one goal all year.
That means six of the top eight scoring attackers from 2018, the exceptions being Mason Toye and underperforming Abu Danladi, the top overall pick in the 2017 SuperDraft.
On Sunday, the MLS Cup final between Seattle and Toronto will be played with two high-priced attackers in the spotlight, Seattle’s Raul Ruidiaz ($2 million annually) and Toronto’s Alejandro Pozuelo ($3.8 million). Attackers often come with the biggest price tags, not to mention transfer fees; will Minnesota be willing to pay that much or more for replacements?
“I’ll be asking the question,” Heath said Friday, club president Chris Wright seated next to him at the National Sports Center. “…What I think is more important for us, and I always say this to Chris, we can’t look at what other teams do. We just have to be the best at what we can be. I think we’ve shown we can be competitive.”
When it mattered most last season, the Loons’ offense faded; attackers failed to score a goal in the last five-plus game — the primary reason they were the only home team to lose in the first round of the playoffs.
New technical director Mark Watson has been seeking potential additions in Europe this week, following assistant coach Ian Fuller’s and director of player personnel Amos Magee’s recent trips there. The club also has plans to go to Europe and South America in the next couple of months.
“Following up on one or two leads,” Heath said.
United named Manny Lagos the club’s Chief Soccer Officer to oversee the sporting operation, and Watson was promoted from assistant coach to Technical Director in charge of the first team’s roster. Watson will report to Heath, and Heath to Lagos.
“We have that seamless channel now of all the player elements reporting up,” said Wright, adding that the changes have been in the works for the past several months.
The loan for MLS goalkeeper of the year Vito Mannone is expiring at the end of the season but Heath said the club is trying to bring him back.
The Loons will be looking for a new assistant coach to fill Watson’s role on the bench.
United’s experience with Forward Madison FC as its USL affiliate was “positive” in 2019, and the club is exploring options to continue the relationship in 2020.
As part of the reorganization, head athletic trainer Stacey Hardin will become Senior Director of Player Health and Performance.