This time last year, Minnesota United transformed its roster by adding veterans pushing 30 years old or beyond. On Monday, it continued something of a youth movement by trading a 2021 third-round draft pick to Dallas for midfielder Jacori Hayes.
Hayes trained with his new team Tuesday for the first time. He is 24 and has played three MLS seasons after Dallas selected him 18th overall in the 2017 SuperDraft. Included was 31 minutes played in a first-round playoff game at Seattle last fall.
He joins a growing list of recently added players — Tyler Miller, Marlon Hairston, James Musa and soon Luis Amarilla — in their mid-20s. Two more could be on the way.
“We wanted to get a bit younger,” United coach Adrian Heath said. “I feel as though we’re going to do that. We wanted to get more athletic and feel that will be the case with the players we’re bringing in.”
Heath called it particularly important to add youth and depth to a team that will need both in U.S. Open Cup play and when players such as Jan Gregus, Robin Lod, Chase Gasper, Hassani Dotson and Mason Toye could be away with their national teams. This summer brings the Tokyo Olympics along with European championships.
“We could be missing four, five players, maybe more,” Heath said. “Depth will be really important for us, and we think the younger ones will help a little bit more.”
Former designated player Angelo Rodriguez trained with his United teammates Monday and Tuesday but likely will be loaned or traded before the March 1 season opener at Portland.
“He will train and carry on as normal,’’ Heath said. “There has been a lot of speculation. As of this moment, nothing is happening. So if that’s the case, he’ll stay and work hard and get ready for the new season like everybody else.”
One of our own
The first homegrown player from its youth academy signed in United history, 15-year-old goalkeeper Fred Emmings will continue to attend online St. Paul Central High, where he is a sophomore. He is headed to Europe in March to play for Luxembourg’s under-16 national team for a month.
“It has been unreal,” said Emmings, who has worked with United goalkeeping coach Stewart Kerr in recent months. “It has gone so fast and I’ve gotten so much better.”
• The third-round pick United traded to Dallas for Hayes becomes a second-round pick and as much as $100,000 in targeted-allocation money if he reaches certain performance standards this season.
• Veteran defender Ike Opara is not in training this week because of what Heath calls “a little bit of a family issue at the moment.” He could be present as early as Thursday.
• Heath is leading training with new responsibility for building the first team and with a contract extension through at least 2021. “I’m really pleased we’re able to sort my contract and a few rest of the staff,” he said. “So far we’re undefeated this season.”
• Gasper remains with the U.S. men’s national team and is expected to join United after it begins training in Florida next week. “He picked up a little knock in training with the national team,” Heath said. “Nothing too serious.”