ST. PAUL -- For more than a season, Minnesota United’s biggest weakness has been at defensive midfielder, and the Loons hope they have have filled that gap with the high-priced signing of Jan Gregus on Thursday, Dec. 20.

The 27-year-old Slovakian has played the past two-plus seasons for FC Copenhagen, the No. 1 team in Denmark’s top league, and 6-foot-3, two-way player has made 22 appearances for the Slovakian senior national team since 2015.

“It’s a guy in the prime of his career from a big club and has a lot of European experience and big European moments,” said United sporting director Manny Lagos. “… He comes from a club that has been in European competition 12 out of 13 years. There is an expectation of quality and excellence and winning, and he’s going to bring that to us.”

With Minnesota allowing a league-worst 141 goals in its first two MLS seasons, Gregus “embraces that roll sitting in front of the back four and really dictating the tempo in the play,” Lagos said.

Gregus will become one Minnesota’s three Designated Players, the highest-level MLS contact that carries big expectations. Attacking midfielder Darwin Quintero and forward Angelo Rodriguez occupy the other two DP spots.

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“He’s somebody that’s going to lead because he’s got great skill on the field, and he’s going to open up the play and get the ball to good attacking players in spots because he’s so technically good with both feet and good at spraying the ball around the field.”

United has been without a primary defensive midfielder since Sam Cronin went down with concussion and neck issues in August 2017 and missed the final nine games of that first season. He suffered another head injury in the 2018 preseason and didn’t play at all last season.

United didn’t pursue long-term deals with Brazilian defensive midfielders Maximiano or Fernando Bob after last season and they didn’t renew the contract of Collen Warner.

Gregus has made 107 appearances for FC Copenhagen, including an appearance in the 2016 UEFA Champions League and the current Europa League. With an ability to take set pieces, he has scored two goals in 18 games this season, according to soccerway.com.

“The one thing that sticks out is his composure on the ball,” United head coach Adrian Heath said in a statement. “He’s got a great range of passes, both short and long. He has a great stride to goal.”

Gregus started his pro career in 2009 in his hometown with FC Nitra, which plays in Slovak first division. He then went to Banik Ostrana in the Czech Republic’s top league and was loaned to Bolton in England’s second tier and went back to the top Czech league with Jablonec.

United plans to introduce Gregus to fans and media in January.