Minnesota United technical director Mark Watson traveled to Argentina in 2020 seeking to bring back midfielder Emanuel Reynoso within 48 hours. Six months later, Reynoso left his Boca Juniors team for Minnesota and MLS.
Two years after that, Reynoso signed a new contract on Wednesday intended to keep him with the Loons through 2026.
Their star playmaker set a playoff record for assists in his first MLS season and represented the club in the MLS All-Star Game hosted at Allianz Field in August.
Now Reynoso has committed to a three-year Designated Player contract with presumably a healthy raise and a club option for a fourth, starting in 2023. That keeps a player who turns 27 in November under contract until he's almost 32.
"When you get an opportunity to sign an MVP-type player, you want to keep them type of players around," Loons coach Adrian Heath said.
The Loons still could sell Reynoso to bigger clubs in Europe or elsewhere before this new contract expires.
"That's always a possibility," Watson said.
But both player and club on Wednesday foresaw a future together.
"I'm happy, my family is happy," Reynoso said in Spanish through a team interpreter. "Since I arrived, I've been welcomed here well. ... I feel happy to be in Minnesota with my family, so content. I decided to re-sign for that reason."
Reynoso noted the change in his game and his life when his wife and daughter joined him in Minnesota earlier this season.
"Honestly, when I was alone I wasn't doing well because I missed my daughter a lot, my family, my wife," he said. "I started feeling better on the pitch. My eating habits changed. I was taking better care of myself. I've been very happy here with my family, content in Minnesota. It's very family-like."
Reynoso's salary this season is $850,000 — $1.07 million guaranteed compensation overall — on an original contract that had next season and a team option in 2024 left before the two sides agreed on a new one.
Watson said Reynoso's overall play and improved production scoring goals — which Heath has sought since Reynoso arrived — deserved a new deal.
"It's just finding the right time where it's the right thing to do," Watson said. "He has achieved another level."
Watson calls the lengthy negotiations to acquire Reynoso two years ago a "tricky one." It required not 48 hours, but rather two visits involving more than a month spent in Argentina to make the deal in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic.
"It took a lot of time, but we knew we were getting an elite player," Watson said. "Was he going to be the right player for us? Was he going to adjust to the league? All those things were still to be answered. But I think really from the first day he showed up, he has been incredible for us. … I think anyone who has seen him play knows he is an elite player."
The Loons are 25-5-5 in games when Reynoso has a goal or an assist since he arrived in September 2020. He is one of only three MLS players this season who has double digits in both goals and assists, with 10 each and two regular-season games remaining.
"It takes time to settle," Heath said about players adapting to a new land, league and language. "Some never settle."
Watson calls that 10-10 achievement "pretty rarefied air for attacking players."
Reynoso has done so for a team clinging to the seventh and final playoff spot in the Western Conference with games remaining at San Jose and Vancouver at home.
"I know what the reputation of Rey is outside the club, within the league," Heath said. "We're just pleased he has committed the main part of his career to us and now we have to build around him, to put the right pieces that will allow him to flourish."