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Minnesota United FC sends former captain Francisco Calvo to Chicago Fire

Minnesota United defender and former captain Francisco Calvo was traded to Chicago on Friday, May 3, 2019. (Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports)

ST. PAUL, Minn. — Minnesota United FC sent Costa Rica international Francisco Calvo to the Chicago Fire in exchange for a package of allocation money that could rise to $525,000, with $400,000 guaranteed. The Friday trade came less than a week after the Loons’ former captain was a healthy scratch from Adrian Heath’s 18-man gameday roster against D.C. United.

The breakdown of funds due to Minnesota is $100,000 in General Allocation Money in both 2019 and 2020; $50,000 in Targeted Allocation Money in 2019 and $150,000 in 2020; plus a potential $125,000 in additional TAM if undisclosed performance metrics are met. This comes after reports that Minnesota United turned down a $2 million offer from abroad for Calvo ahead of the 2018 World Cup.

A versatile and talented defender capable of playing both centerback and left back, Calvo impressed with his athleticism and range of passing during his two-plus years in Minnesota. However, Calvo’s positioning and focus were familiar sources of frustration for Minnesota’s fans and coaching staff, alike. After being sent off for a pair of yellow cards earned less than two minutes apart in the dying moments of Minnesota’s 4-3 loss at Toronto April 19, Eric Miller took Calvo’s place at left back while the latter served a one-game suspension during the Loons 0-0 draw with the LA Galaxy April 24.

Those 90-plus minutes in Toronto proved Calvo’s last for the Loons.

Following the Galaxy game, postgame comments from centerback Ike Opara and Miller did not mention Calvo, but both Opara and Miller noted an organized defense was responsible for holding Zlatan Ibrahimovic and company scoreless.

Opara: “I think there was trust tonight. I got the guys together and we discussed the things we needed to do well tonight, and the guys were appreciative and willing to learn and stick together tonight. I think that was important for all of us to be on the same page, and then discuss, especially about the things that we did extremely well.”

Miller: “It’s great to see we can be organized and limit — they had a few chances — but I think we earned a clean sheet — they didn’t have a lot. I think that it shows when we play together as a unit and everyone chips in and does the job, we can be a good defensive team.”

The following weekend, when Calvo was a healthy scratch for a 1-0 win over Wayne Rooney and D.C. United — the Loons’ second clean sheet in as many games — Heath was honest but brief when asked about the decision to exclude Calvo.

“[I] just felt obviously his disappointment in not playing and didn’t want any negativity about the group today,” Heath said. “He’s obviously disappointed, and I thought it would be better if we left him out altogether today.”

Asked if Calvo would feature in the starting XI in the future, Heath replied, “Well, we’ll see. . . . Let me enjoy today, please,” referencing the Loons just having won their first game at Allianz Field.

With Calvo gone, Miller looks to have solidified his hold on the starting left back job. Minnesota also has first-round SuperDraft pick Chase Gaspar on its roster, who unlike Miller, is left footed.

Eleven-year MLS veteran Osvaldo Alonso has worn the captain’s armband in each of the Loons’ last two games in Calvo’s absence, and is expected to do so again this Saturday against his former club, Seattle.

The deal for Calvo comes a day after Minnesota sent $325,000 in TAM to the Galaxy in exchange for $225,000 in GAM. The combined $325,000 in 2019 GAM acquired by the Loons in the last 24 hours is enough to buy down the contract of forward Angelo Rodriguez and free up a Designated Player spot, should the Loons wish to do so.

The Loons could also buy down Rodriguez’s contract using TAM, but due to the mechanization of MLS rules, doing so with GAM would provide MNUFC with greater flexibility when adding a new third DP.

Minnesota has also shed Calvo’s salary. The defender earned $522,600 in total compensation last season, per figures released by the MLS Players Association.

Sporting director Manny Lagos recently said now that the cost of building Allianz Field is behind MNUFC, adding another DP this summer is a possibility. Lagos also offered the only quote contained in a press release issued by MNUFC this morning.

“We thank Francisco for his two-plus years of service with the club,” Lagos said. “He was a big part of our growth into Major League Soccer and has been a great asset to our Minnesota community. We wish him all the best in the future.”

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