With Minnesota United’s trio of international players returning from the European Championship, the Loons soon will be at full strength, and, meanwhile, the club is setting the table for more additions to the roster.
Finland and Slovakia were eliminated from the Euros this week, freeing up attacker Robin Lod, defender Jukka Raitala and midfielder Jan Gregus to travel back to Minnesota. They could be subjected to a COVID-19 quarantine before eventually rejoining the Loons’ first team.
Manager Adrian Heath said Saturday’s game against the Timbers in Portland, Ore., will be too soon for them to play, with the July 3 home game against San Jose Earthquakes a likely return date.
“Just for the travel,” Heath explained. “So, we’re not going to rush them to come back.”
Lod is the biggest piece. He’s a candidate to slot in at right wing in the club’s new-look attack with new striker Adrien Hunou and new left winger Franco Fragapane, and playmaking midfielder Emanuel Reynoso working to set them up.
Lod’s arrival will have a one- or two-day detour as he heads to Helsinki, Finland, for an appointment as he works toward his U.S. green card, Heath said. “We’re hoping that him and (French/Madagascar native Romain Metanire) in the next few weeks will get the green cards sorted, which will be good,” Heath said.
If the Loons are able to get U.S. green cards for those two foreign players, it would clear two international roster spots for United to make additional changes in the secondary transfer window from July 7 to Aug. 5.
“If we should want to do something in the next window,” Heath said.
Loons CEO Chris Wright said Tuesday the club will continue to refine the roster, with front-office analysis a daily activity, but how much is desired or even possible is yet to be seen. Some within the club have described potential activity more likely to be one in and one out, so trades inside MLS is a possibility.
“Will we evolve again? I anticipate we will because this club is not sitting still,” Wright said. “This club is going to become a bigger and bigger and bigger club. It is. We have the commitment of ownership around all of that.”
The Loons spent more than $5 million in transfer fees this spring to bring in Fragapane and Hunou, who scored the goals in Wednesday’s 2-0 victory over Austin FC at Allianz Field. They also shelled out $1 million in salary for backup striker Ramon Abila before business needed to be done by June 1.
The current roster appears to have depth at all positions, so there are no apparent weaknesses, and the results are starting to flow with a five-game unbeaten streak, improving the Loons’ record from 0-4 to start the season to 3-4-2 now.
While Wright said the franchise wants to keep growing, it isn’t going to be limitless. The Loons have all three Designated Player spots filled for those who don’t count against the MLS salary budget, and owner Bill McGuire described the positioning of the club as “mid-market” in an interview with the St. Paul Pioneer Press earlier this month.
“It’s what can we afford and what can we do both in the confines of the budget but also in our ability to pay?” McGuire said. “We are still a small-market club, or a mid-market club, and you have to think about all of those things. We have to plan for capital, and you are doing this coming off a season where you have no revenue” due to no fans during the pandemic.