Every soccer team is different, but that doesn’t make their needs unique. It’s safe to say that most any soccer team in the world would like to have a sturdy defense, control of the midfield, creative playmaking and top-level finishing. Those pieces have arrived one by one for Minnesota United over its first three years in the league as the team has brought in Osvaldo Alonso, Romain Metanire, Ike Opara, Jan Gregus and Luis Amarilla, and now, one of the most important pieces — a true No. 10 to dictate the attack — is here as the club welcomes its new Designated Player, Emanuel Reynoso, from Boca Juniors in Argentina.
The closest Minnesota has come thus far to having an attacking player of this caliber was Darwin Quintero, who joined the team as its first Designated Player in 2018. The Colombian provided plenty of highlights for MNUFC in his two seasons here — including the team’s first hat trick in MLS — but inconsistency as well as his age made it difficult to build around El Cientifico del Gol for the long term.
Likewise, the incumbent No. 10, Kevin Molino, has at times looked like the best player on the team for Minnesota United, but has also struggled to stay consistently healthy and regain the form that saw him approach double digits in both goals and assists for Orlando City SC. Given the level of passing, possession and scoring that he’s capable of, there’s every reason to believe putting him alongside Reynoso will open up more space for him and improve his game.
The man they call “Bebelo” (beh-BEH-low) comes in at the age of 24 and with more of an emphasis on playmaking as opposed to Quintero’s hybrid playmaker/second striker role. While his numbers with Boca aren’t necessarily gaudy, it’s clear that he has the potential to provide the Loons with a real threat to break the game open by finding and creating space both with the ball and in runs off the ball.
Choose-your-fighter music aside, the video above highlights Reynoso’s ability to drop deep to pick up the ball and carry the offense into the final third. Once there, he’s adept at finding space between the lines and making himself a threat in the critical Zone 14 — the area in midfield directly above the box.
The clip also shows off his propensity for making secondary runs into the box from deeper positions and a willingness to take the shots such action offers up for him. While it’s unlikely anyone will step in and take Jan Gregus’ spot as the team’s set piece specialist, Reynoso has shown the ability to get the ball up and down over the wall and score on free kicks as well. All this, and he’s basically the same age as sophomores Hassani Dotson and Chase Gasper.
Last season, with a dramatically improved defense and a still inconsistent offense, the Loons made the playoffs for the first time in their MLS history. So far in 2020, the defense has largely looked the part, even with considerable interruptions and adjustments due to the pandemic. If Reynoso can step into the driver’s seat of Head Coach Adrian Heath’s preferred 4-2-3-1 without a hitch, it could be an essential piece in turning MNUFC from playoff contenders into contending contenders.