BLAINE, MInn. — Minnesota United’s two new signings, Franco Fragapane and Adrien Hunou, stretched together before Wednesday’s training session in Blaine. Afterward, the sweaty Argentine and Frenchman briefly joked with each other before meeting a few media members.
In between, the newly minted Loons attackers showed flashes on why the club spent more than $5 million combined in transfer fees to bring them to Minnesota.
During a two-on-two drill on a condensed field at the National Sports Center, Fragapane buried one ball into the back of the net, then as soon the drill restarted, he reloaded and immediately rippled the net with another finish. He had two separate sets of goals in this don’t-blink succession.
During a broader four-on-four drill, Hunou roofed a tight-angle shot into the top corner to beat goalkeeper Tyler Miller at the near post. A little later, he crossed over center back Michael Boxall to create space and the ball banged hard off the crossbar.
Loons defensive midfielder Wil Trapp has only trained with Fragapane and Hunou for a week, and he only played with Hunou in the 1-1 draw with Real Salt Lake on Saturday. Fragapane’s paperwork issue with the Argentine federation that kept him from his Loons debut has been resolved. But Trapp has seen enough to know the high quality the Loons have added.
Trapp was Fragapane’s teammate for part of the two-on-two drill and played against him in a scrimmage last week. He said Fragapane has an understanding of when to combine with teammates, find open spaces and go one-on-one.
“That is a unique, high-level ability for a winger because the versatility makes it difficult for defenders to key in,” Trapp said. “If they go with him to the inside, we will have fullbacks that are open. If they stay wide with him, we have (Emanuel Reynoso) who comes into those pockets. He really does a good job of understanding positions and how to hurt the opponent always.”
Trapp’s first impression of Hunou touched on Hunou’s calmness to have defenders around him and make the right decision. “Intelligence mixed with a good amount of physicality but a slender physicality that makes him kind of sleek and smooth,” Trapp explained.
Here are highlights from both players’ interviews Wednesday, with Fragapane’s translated from Spanish by public relations manager Gabriela Lozada and Hunou’s chat paraphrased from French by the club’s director of player personnel Amos Magee.
Why come to Minnesota?
Hunou: “(I wanted) to gain new experiences, also to come to MLS and to get a chance to win a title.”
Fragapane: “Make the playoffs and try to come out champions; that would be really nice for everyone.”
Big deal DP
Hunou joins Reynoso and Jan Gregus as the club’s three high-level Designated Players. He also comes in on a transfer fee estimated at more than $3 million.
“(I don’t) feel pressure,” Hunou said. “Each player has to do their own. He’s here to do his job and hopefully his personal ambition and the club’s ambition; that is what (I’m) focusing on and not all the designation.”
Fragapane was able to consult with new Loons teammates and fellow Argentines in Reynoso and Ramon Abila about transitioning to Minnesota.
They told him “I would come to play for a good club, and I wouldn’t have any issues. In Argentina, it’s a hard environment to live in when you play soccer. The truth is, they told me I would live well here, calm, and that it was good soccer.”
Hunou could ask new United teammates and fellow Frenchmen Bakaye Dibassy and Romain Metanire about coming to the Twin Cities.
“He said it’s a good club,” Hunou said of Dibassy, whom he played against in France’s Ligue 1. “Its a beautiful place, all the installations here, the infrastructure is really, really good. He said it’s a good group of guys.”
Nicknames to stick?
Fragapane had a moniker of “Fragagoal” during his career at Talleres in Argentina. It clearly was a reference to his scoring abilities.
“I don’t know who started it,” he said. “But mainly, everyone called me ‘Fraga,’ but they can only call me ‘Fragagol’ here when I start scoring goals here.”
Hunou went by “Pippo” during his time at Rennes in France. It was a reference to Italian striker Filippo Inzaghi, who played for Juventus and AC Milan in the late 1990s and 2000s.
“(I found myself) in good places like Pippo Inzaghi,” he said. “… Pippo is good because it represents being a good goal-scorer and all that stuff, but (I’m) Adrien Hunou.”
The Loons loaned forward Foster Langsdorf to the Tampa Bay Rowdies and center back Callum Montgomery to the San Diego Loyal on Wednesday. They are among seven total players now away on season-long loans.
With Adrian Zendejas on loan with El Paso Locomotive and Dayne St. Clair with Canada’s national team for World Cup qualifiers, the club has had its under-19 youth academy goalkeeper Ben Schliemann training with the club this week. The Minneapolis Washburn student has played for Minneapolis City SC.
With the U.S. expected to send a separate batch of players to the CONCACAF Gold Cup this summer, Loons midfielder Hassani Dotson could be an option after his strong showing in the Olympic qualifying tournament in March.
United midfielders Emanuel Reynoso (knee) and Ozzie Alonso (thigh) rehabbed their injuries during Wednesday’s training session.