Emanuel Reynoso doesn’t speak with the bravado of an MLS superstar. Zlatan Ibrahimovic, he is not.
Instead, Minnesota United’s central attacking midfielder lets his play do most of the talking. During the final stretch of the 2020 regular season and the Loons’ run in the MLS Cup Playoffs, the 25-year-old Argentine tallied 10 assists and two goals in the final six games.
In the playoffs, Reynoso distributed six assists and scored one wonder goal, a 30-yard free kick against Seattle in the Western Conference Finals. Those performances on the big stage put him in the conversation for league MVP during the 2021 season. The Loons’ season opener is just over a week away, against the Seattle Sounders on April 16.
During preseason camp, Reynoso spoke with the Pioneer Press through club translator Gabriela Lozada about his on- and off-field adjustments to MLS from Buenos Aires super club Boca Juniors, how he feels about the MVP chatter and manager Adrian Heath’s objective for him to score more goals this season.
What is the comfort level in being able to start this season with preseason training and not having to join in th middle of the year?
“It’s going to be positive for me because I didn’t have this opportunity last season and it helps me (a lot). But now I’m with my teammates, at the disposition of the coach, it’ll serve me well.”
You arrived during a pandemic, but were there places you grew to like in Minnesota?
“I thought the stadiums were really nice. With COVID, you can’t do anything, but I liked the stadiums and Seattle a lot. (In Minnesota), I liked going to restaurants that served meat and (visiting) the lakes. Now we have to take advantage of the lakes this summer. We’re going to have fun.”
Is your family going to visit from Argentina this season?
“My daughter isn’t coming, but my mother, father and brothers will come to visit.”
Who are your closest teammates?
“Well, Ozzie (Alonso), who speaks Spanish, and also Adrian (Zendejas). I also talk a lot with (Robin) Lod and (Bakaye) Dibassy, who both know a little bit of Spanish. I hang with those guys a lot.”
What was your first impression of MLS?
“I like the stadiums a lot, they’re very nice. The whole league is very organized, and like I said, it’s getting better, and better quality players are coming, and that’s going to be really good for the league.”
When did you feel comfortable last season?
“The first game, I didn’t feel well physically and technically. I wasn’t 100 percent, but I started to train, adjusted to the team, took in what the coach was telling me, and that all helped a lot. The confidence I got from the group to keep playing, and little by little one tries to give their best and so after (that), I felt more comfortable.”
Which were the most difficult opponents?
“Seattle was a tough opponent. They were the reigning champions, it was their home stadium, it’s a tough place to play. Also Houston [Dynamo], those were tough matches, especially at my position.”
Your stunning free-kick goal against Seattle was the biggest goal in club history. Walk us through that. And was it one of the best you’ve ever scored?
“I was really happy with the goal, but we weren’t lucky enough to come away with the win, and it’s difficult to enjoy that goal. But I’m happy with it, and hopefully I can score more.”
What did you feel were the keys to your success toward end of the season and in the playoffs?
“Off the pitch, in training, we had a good relationship, the four of us up top. That helped me a lot. And I think the whole group, especially on the defensive side, we improved a lot, and that helps us ... keep fighting and compete with the best, which is what you want. You have to make those connections off the field, in training or away (from the field). Those help everything.”
What does it mean to lose Kevin Molino to Columbus?
“We’re going to miss Kevin, on and off the pitch. He scored a lot of goals and was an important player for us, but we still have Robin (Lod) and Ethan (Finlay), and Patrick (Weah) who plays really well. And like I said, it’s about connecting in training, try to get together out(side) of training to make those connections, and if all goes well, everything on the pitch is much easier.”
With your great finish to last season, you were mentioned as a league MVP candidate for 2021. How do you feel about that?
“I’m happy to hear it because one trains to give their best to the club, and the good stuff on the personal side will happen too, right? It’s a thanks to my teammates that make it easy. I’m grateful to the league, the club and my teammates, the technical staff who all give me the confidence to keep playing and show what I can do.”
What are your individual or team goals for the season?
“Try to do what I did last year, always improving and learning new things. On the team side, hopefully we can have a good year like last year, and hopefully we can be champions.”
How does the Western Conference final loss to Seattle stick with you?
“Yeah, it still stings. More so how we lost. We were up 2-0 and then suddenly, they pass us and it’s 3-2. That impacts us a lot. But we have another opportunity, we have a rematch to go out and give our best this year, and hopefully it’s a good year for us. We’re preparing really well to get to where we got to last year and keep going.”
How do you respond to coach Adrian Heath’s desire for you to score more goals?
“Yeah, he told me. I’ll keep using this preseason to prepare as best as I can, and hopefully I can score more goals to help the team. Obviously you want to score goals, so I’ll keep working, and hopefully score some goals to make the coach happy.”