Emanuel Reynoso at the head of the Loons wave

His deflected free kick had tied the score minutes earlier, and now Emanuel Reynoso took a pass from defender Alan Benitez along the right sideline as two Houston Dynamo players pressed in.

He has the habit. As Minnesota United’s hottest and most exciting player, Reynoso has grown accustomed to opponents who try to impose claustrophobia, suppress time and space, encourage him to dump the ball like a fugitive getting rid of incriminating evidence.

It doesn’t always work as well as his opponents would like.

Minnesota and Houston were tied at 1-1, after Reynoso’s free kick was deflected into the Houston net by a Dynamo defender in the 79th minute. Five minutes later, Reynoso was getting the star treatment along the sideline, and he did what an unselfish star should do, returning one of his patent soft, deft passes to Benitez.

The Benitez defender had left him for Reynoso, so now Benitez was as alone as possible near an opponent’s goal. He found a wide open Luis Amarilla in net, Amarilla scored easily and Minnesota was on their way to a 2-1 win, an 8-1-2 record in their last 11 games and third place in the league. ‘West. Conference.

These are heady days for the franchise, in part because Reynoso has added goals to his game. Encouraged by United manager Adrian Heath to shoot more often this season, Reynoso has scored 11 goals, tied for second in franchise history. He needs three more in the remaining seven games to tie the franchise record.

More importantly, Reynoso’s score could make the Loons a dangerous playoff team.

Dangerous was the wrong description for the Loons in the first half against an inferior opponent on Saturday at Allianz Field. Reynoso often seemed more interested in body blocks than touch passes. He received a yellow card as United fell 1-0 down at half-time.

“I thought there were some good Rey moments,” Heath said, while allowing no one on his team had played so well early on.

The good Rey arrived just in time.

“I’ve been saying it since he came here,” Heath said. “In terms of talent, there’s no one as good as him in the league… the end of the season, and maybe in the playoffs, he’ll be a very important piece for us. ”

So many Minnesota teams can offer art these days, in the form of the batting of Luis Arraez, the fingertips of Justin Jefferson, the power of Sylvia Fowles, the hands of Kirill Kaprizov, the buoyancy of Anthony Edwards, movement of Mo Ibrahim and sudden, soft feet of Reynoso.

The great passers are too often credited with having seen the chessboard. It’s not quite fair. In chess, the pieces do not all move at the same time.

In team sports, good passes are more like short-term time travel. Wayne Gretzky, Joe Montana, Magic Johnson reacted to what was coming, not what was happening. That’s what Reynoso does.

No matter how many goals he scores, Reynoso’s artistry will be in the deft tactile pass, sometimes with the outside of his foot, which looks harmless until the ball passes past defenders and into space. open where only his teammate can reach him. To pass better than Reynoso, you have to use your thumbs.

“We know his qualities,” said Loons midfielder Wil Trapp. “Among the top two in the league. When he clicks and does the things that we know he is capable of, it changes everything for us, and it also makes the opponent much more worried about what we can do, and it opens up space for… ”

Trapp listed half the list. “It makes us a more dangerous team,” he said.

“I said at the start of last season and certainly at the end of the season that he could be the best player in the league,” defender Michael Boxall said. “But no player can win a game on their own. They need teammates around them to help them out a bit…

“For me, I don’t think there is another player in this league that I would take over.”

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