Minnesota United opens its season Saturday at FC Dallas with suspended All-Star midfielder Emanuel Reynoso out of sight, but apparently not out of mind.
Still home in Argentina, Reynoso sent a text to his teammates on Thursday, coach Adrian Heath said.
"He put a text out there yesterday wishing the guys all the best in Texas, so he's obviously keeping his eyes on it," Heath told reporters Friday. "I'm still very hopeful that we can get him back pretty soon."
Heath has called himself hopeful that Reynoso will arrive soon since the Loons started preseason training in early January. Two weeks ago, MLS suspended Reynoso without pay until he reports to the club.
The Loons have said Reynoso's absence is due to personal matters.
On Thursday, Heath told the Star Tribune, "He's going through one or two issues that he wants to deal with. We need to concentrate now with the group that we have, but we are hopeful. … This situation is not over."
Earlier, Heath was asked if he thinks Reynoso still wants to be in Minnesota and MLS.
"I know he wants to be here," Heath said firmly.
Heath said recent conversations he has had with Reynoso's father and brother have convinced him of that.
"I was fortunate enough to speak to Rey's father and brother and we're hopeful we can resolve this sooner rather than later," Heath said. "The season has not started yet. We have a long season. ...
It'd be foolish to say it has not been a little wrinkle in the way we tried to plan things."
Heath said he and his staff have worked to surround Reynoso with complementary players.
Twice named an MLS All Star, Reynoso signed a new contract last September intended to keep him a Loon until 2026. He'll be nearly 32 by then.
"We've spent the last two years trying to put pieces around him that will help Rey flourish and do the things that we know he does the best, which is score goals and make goals," Heath said. "When we're in the offseason trying to put this jigsaw together of what we want it to look like, at no stage did we envision without Rey in it."
Reynoso missed five games each of the last two seasons because of injury or suspension, starting all but one of the 29 he played each regular season.
Loons goalkeeper Dayne St. Clair said he and his teammates will play on without Reynoso until the matter is resolved.
"All our games this preseason have been without him," St. Clair said Tuesday. "We played last season without him; I think he was suspended three different times. It's not like we've never played a game without him before."
Benitez, Loons part ways
The Loons and Paraguayan defender Alan Benitez on Friday agreed to terminate his MLS contract. That opens up an international roster spot and clears some money to add new players. Heath on Friday said his team is on the verge of signing a young attacker under the league's under-22 initiative.
Benitez played little since arriving last July. Heath attributed that to DJ Taylor's emergence at right back and a four-man defensive line in which Benitez struggled defensively.
"In a different formation, Alan would have been excellent," Heath said.