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Loons seek game-changing speed with new attacker Mender Garcia

Garcia is expected to constitute the biggest addition the Loons will make as the MLS summer transfer window closes.

MLS: New York City FC at Minnesota United FC
Minnesota United manager Adrian Heath anticipates Mender Garcia may now be the fastest player on the roster.
Matt Blewett / USA Today Sports
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ST. PAUL — New Minnesota United attacker Mender Garcia will be expected to stretch opposing MLS defenses with his top-notch speed once the 23-year-old Colombian soon joins the club.

Garcia is expected to constitute the biggest addition the Loons will make as the MLS summer transfer window closes Thursday. Garcia will occupy one of the club’s three Designated Player spots, but his salary will be low enough to be convertible out of a DP slot in 2023.

The Loons also have striker Luis Amarilla in this flexible buy-down category, so Minnesota could have up to two DP spots vacated come next season. MLS All-Star Emanuel Reynoso will remain a DP; Minnesota opened up Garcia’s DP slot in offloading Adrien Hunou earlier this season.

MLS roster rules say the maximum salary budget charges for players who join in the summer transfer window are $306,250. A source said Garcia’s salary will be “just over the threshold.”

The transfer fee Minnesota will pay to Garcia’s current club, Once Caldas in Colombia’s top tier, and the length of Garcia’s contract with MNUFC are both unknown. The deal has yet to be made official.

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Colombian reporter Pipe Sierra said Garcia’s deal is for two years, with a club option for third year and a transfer fee with bonuses pegged at $2 million.

The Loons weren’t initially scouting Garcia when the winger/striker captured their attention during a game. “He caught our eye just by his sheer pace,” manager Adrian Heath said Thursday. “From there, we think we got a good deal and think he will be a big contributor for us.”

Heath anticipates that Garcia will be the current roster’s fastest player, beating out Bongi Hlongwane and Niko Hansen.

“He’s incredibly athletic, can play wide, causes a threat to run in behind,” Heath said. “He’s played up front. He plays anywhere — across the front. Having spoke to the kid at length, he’s just really excited to get here. I asked where he thought his best position was. He said, ‘I’ll play wherever you want to play me. I will hopefully have an influence on the game.’”

Garcia has scored 21 goals in 101 league appearances for Once Caldas in Colombia’s Primera A, per FBref.com. He has five goals in 1,313 minutes across 18 games this season.

Garcia had his immigration meeting in Colombia on Monday and has gone through the proper medical exams, Heath said. The club is holding out hope Garcia will receive proper clearances and arrive in Minnesota before Friday, when he could join the first team for the road trip to play Colorado Rapids at 8 p.m. Saturday.

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Gonzalez in mix

The Loons are finalizing a deal for Jonathan Gonzalez, a 23-year-old central midfielder currently on loan with Liga MX side Queretaro from Monterrey, per MLSsoccer.com.

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Minnesota would bring Gonzalez on a loan for the duration of the 2022 season, a source said. Gonzalez’s contract with Monterrey reportedly runs out at year’s end. It’s unclear if Minnesota would have a purchase option on “JoGo.”

Minnesota could use players in midfield, with Wil Trapp dealing with a hamstring injury and Hassani Dotson and Jacori Hayes suffering season-ending leg injuries.

Gonzales, a former U.S. youth player who switched to Mexico, was born in California and would not occupy an international roster spot.

Little on Miller

There are no imminent outgoing trade deals for backup goalkeeper Tyler Miller, Heath shared Thursday.

Miller hasn’t played in MLS since the first two games of the season, back in February and March, and told the Pioneer Press last week he wants an opportunity to play.

“If the deal was acceptable to everybody,” Heath said. “I understand Tyler is frustrated, but at this moment in time, there is nothing for us to discuss.”

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Related Topics: MINNESOTA UNITED FC
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