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Minnesota United announced Thursday that it has signed midfielder Niko Hansen to a two-year contract with a club option for 2023.

The Loons will send $125,000 in general-allocation money — $50,000 in 2021, $75,000 in 2022 — for a midfielder whom coach Adrian Heath in a statement called an "incredibly gifted and athletic" player. Heath also predicted Hansen's versatility will be "huge" during another condensed season schedule that begins April 16 at Seattle.

Hansen, 26, formerly with the Houston Dynamo, adds depth to a team that could lose players for a time during the Tokyo Summer Olympics and the European championships. He can play on the wing and elsewhere.

Heath said he consulted with Loons players Ethan Finlay and Wil Trapp, both of whom played with Hansen in Columbus. Heath also said he has admired Hansen since he played at the University of New Mexico, before Columbus selected him ninth in the 2017 MLS SuperDraft.

"He knows the league, he knows the opponents," Heath said. "His pace is a game-changer."

Aiming for Tokyo

Loons midfielder Hassani Dotson started and played 82 minutes in the U.S. U-23 national team's 1-0 victory over Costa Rica on Thursday to open Olympic qualifying-tournament play in Guadalajara, Mexico.

Dotson provided the dirty work that created teammate Jesus Ferreira's 35th-minute goal that stood up as the game-winner. U.S. captain Jackson Yueill, a Bloomington native, started in the midfield with Dotson.

From the beginning

So impressive in last season's final three months, star attacking midfielder Emanuel Reynoso is back for his first Loons' preseason and his first full MLS season.

"So glad to be with the group and train with them because preseason is the foundation for the whole season," Reynoso said in Spanish through an interpreter in an interview conducted by a team employee.

He said he and his teammates must prepare mentally for a season he calls "important" and "hard" for everyone.

"Try to get myself 100 percent fit and have a similar campaign to last year, always fixing errors and giving our best," Reynoso said.

First impressions

First-round draft pick Justin McMaster has joined training in Blaine, getting to know his new teammates after he played a game with his Wake Forest college team.

"Hanging out, getting to know guys," said McMaster, the SuperDraft's 17th overall pick coming back from knee surgery late in the 2019 season. "Probably play some [video] games of FIFA, probably whup some guys there, teaching them."

His preferred team to play: Bayern Munich.

Friendly in Blaine

The Loons will play USL League One's Union Omaha in a closed preseason friendly at the National Sports Center on Friday before they leave for Florida on Tuesday. The club's preseason games aren't scheduled to be livestreamed.