Franco Fragapane wants to remain with Loons, but are his days numbered in Minnesota?
Fragapane is on a team-friendly guaranteed compensation of $257,000, per MLSPA, and has been one of the most productive Loons over his two seasons.
ST. PAUL -- Emanuel Reynoso and Franco Fragapane have a close relationship as Argentines playing for Minnesota United.
Reynoso signed a new three-year contract with the Loons last week, and Fragapane, who agreed to a four-year contract with MNUFC in May 2021, wants to play alongside his countryman for years to come.
“Hopefully, I can join him, too,” Fragapane said in Spanish through club translator Gabriela Lozada.
Fragapane told the Pioneer Press last week there was an offer for him to return to Boca Juniors in Buenos Aires, the club of his youth, but the 29-year-old’s desire is to continue with MNUFC.
“I’m really happy here — my family, too,” Fragapane added.
After the Loons’ 2-0 loss at San Jose on Saturday, Heath, in general, questioned why his players did not show a greater “attitude” to lock in a MLS Cup Playoffs spot compared to the last-place Earthquakes.
“Maybe it’s the makeup of some of the people we’ve got,” Heath said. “Maybe we have to look at that.” He didn’t name specific players.
After Tuesday’s training session, Heath reiterated a big issue of late being “really poor” energy levels, but broadened the scope. “As a staff, we have to take responsibility for that,” he said.
To make the playoffs, the Loons need a win or draw against Vancouver in the Decision Day finale at 4 p.m. Sunday at Allianz Field.
Against San Jose, Fragapane was MNUFC’s one and only substitution, coming out in the 66th minute. In the 4-1 loss to Sporting Kansas City on Sept. 17, Fragapane was the first player taken out of the match, and he was visibly upset as he exited.
Fragapane is on a team-friendly guaranteed compensation of $257,000, per MLSPA, and has been one of the most productive Loons over his two seasons. He has six goals and three assists this season; he had five goals and nine assists a year ago. He can provide value.
His 0.28 goals per 90 minutes has been third-best among regulars in both seasons.
Bonding with teammates, community
Off the field, Fragapane has worked to assimilate, taking regular English classes and showing a softer side with his man of the match donations going to the Animal Humane Society of Minnesota. He has bonded with teammates over Yerba Mate, a traditional South American drink, hooking Ghanaian Abu Danladi, and with American D.J. Taylor has been buying packages of the caffeinated beverage.
But Fragapane has contributed to the Loons’ recent struggles: only one point netted from an available 18 in their current six-game winless skid (0-5-1). Player suspensions have been damaging not only during this lull but all season long.
Against FC Dallas on Sept. 9, Fragapane received a yellow card in the 20th minute, triggering a one-game suspension for card accumulation. Then he received a second yellow in the 69th minute, which compounded to a red, and Minnesota was down to 10 men when it needed a big comeback in a 3-0 loss.
The two suspensions cost Fragapane two key games — a 1-0 loss to Portland and a 1-1 draw with Los Angeles FC.
“The South American player, as kids, are taught to play to win and maintain passion for football,” Fragapane said about his style of play. “The truth is I like it. … I live for this, and I leave it all for football that way.”
Fragapane knows he has to try to self-govern his play at times but said that can be difficult.
“The truth is those are moments where one doesn’t think, when you have a lot of citations,” he said. “But after it happens to you, you think, ‘I won’t do it anymore.’ ”
Heath knows it’s a balancing act. “If you take that little bit of fire away from (Fragapane), it does dilute what he is as a player, and you can’t have that.”
The Loons will have their 10th player suspended for yellow-card accumulation on Sunday. Starting midfielder Kevin Arriaga was booked in the 10th minute at San Jose; Heath thought it was a poor call from the referee, but Arriaga will still be suspended for Sunday.
Heath believes there have been too many bookings this year for avoidable things outside of the course of play. “That is something that we’ve certainly addressed and will address more physically next year,” Heath said. “We can’t keep getting penalized for non-football issues really.”
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