Expansion side Minnesota United FC paid a king’s ransom to get winger/attacking midfielder Kevin Molino away from Orlando City SC and so far, at least in pre-season play, he’s been worth every penny. In three pre-season starts he has tallied 3 goals and, although not registering any official assists, he has been creating opportunities to help his teammates in the build-up of play for goal-scoring opportunities.
Last season he was Goal USA’s Comeback Player of the year, coming back from a torn ACL to score 11 goals and provide 8 assists in 26 starts. This season, he looks to be the face of a fledgling franchise and improve on those numbers in a familiar system with former Orlando City coach Adrian Heath. With Minnesota United’s inaugural season approaching, I’m going to look at three possible roles that the Trinidad and Tobago player could play in the Twin Cities.
Out Wide as a Forward (Left or Right) in a 4-3-3: The main reason that Adrian Heath wanted Molino, and why he’s such a dangerous attacking threat, is his ability to play anywhere from the wings to the attacking midfield. While he’s more effective at CAM, Heath has been playing Molino on the left side of the pitch as a forward in a 4-3-3 against Vancouver. Back in Orlando, because Kaka was the no.10, Molino was used a lot on the right side. In terms of distribution, he doesn’t whip in a lot of crosses from the wide areas, preferring more to penetrate from the left or right side of the technical area, and use the attention that he attracts to make the pass to an open attacker.
According to Squawka, he created 13.2% of chances from in the technical area, so if he can’t find a way to score from the wing, he has the vision to look for the open man; and with him looking to be the main man that opposing coaches will be looking to gameplan around, there should be a lot of chances to make his teammates capitalise on those opportunities. [https://streamable.com/826pr%5D
Behind the Striker in a 4-2-1-3/4-3-1-2
This where I rather see Molino: playing behind the striker as an attacking midfielder, playing in the hole and exploiting what-ever real estate is in front of him and delivering the key ball to either Cristian Ramirez or rookie Abu Danladi, whoever gets the start on match day, or maybe even both if Heath wants to play two strikers up front. Coach Heath would look to go offense heavy while creating build-up from possession. Molino created the majority of his chances from the area between the halfway line to the opponent’s technical area (55.3% according to Squawka). So now defenders have a choice when Molino’s in the hole: go out to to meet Molino and risk giving up space behind them for a cutting winger or finding the striker ahead of him, or stay back to cover the flanks but allow Molino to exploit the space. [https://streamable.com/r6rno%5D
He could also play more as a second striker poaching for goals, which happens to be his specialty; most of his goals came off of deflected efforts in the box, and he’s such an instinctive player. When there’s confusion after the first effort, Molino always seems to either be the calmest man in the box, guiding the loose ball into the net or just come out of nowhere to put it in the auld onion bag.
Up front in a 4-3-3:
This might be a bit of a stretch but why not? Although I never saw him play in the middle and although he may not be a traditional centre-forward, he certainly has the height (he’s 5’11”) to head in crosses and the strength to play in the box, fend off defenders and find players in space to capitalise on goal-scoring opportunities. Is he Kenwyne Jones? Nah (but he’s better. Jk.Well he is…you know what I mean), but could make plays for you in the box.
Heath has good depth at the forward role with Johan Venegas slated to start after extensive minutes during pre-season, as well as Christian Ramirez and #1 Draft pick Abu Danladi in the reserves, but if injuries arise, or if Heath wants to try something different, I wouldn’t put it past him to maybe play Molino as the centre forward, probably in short stints until he believes he’s a viable option. It could be favorable in counter-attacking situations with the extra speed coming from the centre-forward spot.
Kevin Molino Pre-Season Highlights (incomplete):