Costa Rican CB Francisco Calvo to Minnesota United

by on 22 December 2016

Minnesota United confirmed on Tuesday the signing of center back Francisco Calvo, using Targeted Allocation Money to buy his salary below Designated Player-level. Calvo is the second Costa Rican international on United’s roster, joining attacker Johan Venegas. Reports linking Calvo to Minnesota started circulating on December 22.

The 24-year-old Calvo would join United from Saprissa, a club that Amos Magee was known to be scouting earlier this offseason. FiftyFive.One listed Calvo as a potential target at the time, with our own Ben Mackenzie citing the “young, athletic defender has enough prowess to range up and down the field.” In 27 matches with Saprissa, Calvo scored six goals, good for second on the team.

A naturally left-footed player, Calvo can play either at center back or left back. He’s earned 17 caps to the Costa Rican national team, including two starts in this past summer’s Copa America Centenario. Listed around 5’11”, Calvo could partner well with current Loon Joseph Greenspan. Calvo is a player who’s strong with his feet, has pace to keep his mark or make attacking runs, and could be an instant starter for United.

Minnesota United declined to confirm when asked about Calvo.


Seven hours after posting, Saprissa has confirmed that Calvo is off to Minnesota United.

Saprissa posted a message to their former player to wish him luck with United. This will mark Calvo’s second stint playing in the United States. He played with San Jacinto in 2010 as an agreement with Saprissa’s academy.

One Saprissa supporter praised Calvo, saying he was an “occasional scorer, (who) tends to play on the left, but also plays center.” He also referred to the defender as a “solid fixture in the national team. He is very consistent and very good in the air.”

Given his 5’11” frame, it may come as a surprise about his presence as an aerial threat. However, Calvo is known for his strong positioning and impressive vertical. He still won’t hit 25 years old until July 8, meaning he can be a long-term fixture for the Loons. Further, the move to MLS could pave the way to more regular playing time with Los Ticos.

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  • John Herman

    Love it. Seems like a great fit if we’re playing possession, and he’s got the youth, pedigree, set piece prowess, and track record to back it up.

    We’re not that far off from having what I think will be a very competitive starting XI. Just need another veteran CB and a 10 (DP-level, please!). I won’t complain if we pick up more proven talents at fullback or a CDM who moves the meter more than Warner, but this team is shaping up nicely, if slowly. Hopefully Heath can put it all together.

    • Jeff Rueter

      You know, that’s not as daunting of a wishlist as it used to be. I think you’re on the money.

      The veteran CB would probably top my list at the moment. A DP-level 10 is obviously the dream, but I think Johan Venegas can fill that role and have more success than he did in Montreal in their system. I look at the change in success for teams like Portland (Liam Ridgewell), Seattle (Chad Marshall), and even Toronto (Drew Moor). If the other three CBs are Greenspan, Calvo, and (rumored) Kallman, you need a vet.

  • Jake

    Super good signing! Young and talented, I agree with John, could use a veteran to pair with him and add more depth (CB had been our biggest weakness as far as depth goes the last couple years) sweet to see that we beat out other teams to get him. Great Value pickup, we have been slow but Manny has said from the beginning that he wants value. Like this move a lot.

  • Benjamin MacKenzie

    I really can’t say enough how excited I am for Calvo. He was the top player on my list but seemed cost prohibitive in a bidding war with LA and Atlanta. Plucking him to play with Greenspan and Watson (along with his fellow Tico Venegas) will be exciting to watch.

    • Matt

      Really like the way this lineup is taking shape. And with the Superdraft and many other opportunities to build the roster ahead, there is a lot to be excited about. There is a sense that they are being very smart and strategic in how they are building this team.

  • Tres Gatos

    Love this signing. He was really the one in Costa Rica I wanted and I was doubtful we would be able to land him with LA & Atlanta in the mix. Feliz Navidad 🎄🎁😻

    • Brian Quarstad

      Agreed. Wonderful signing if the deal gets finalized.

      • Tres Gatos


  • nathan3e

    Fifty Five One continues to be hugely impressive. Nicely done. Again.

    • Brian Quarstad

      Thanks, Nathan. I am hugely impressed with all our contributors who number nearly 30 these days. I’m so grateful and thankful for everyone including all our great readers. You and I go back a few years ourselves, don’t we.

      • nathan3e

        We do indeed Brian. The IMS days, the Stars scrimmage at Parade days. Things have changed quite a bit since then.

  • Chris RB

    This is really exciting. One concern (pessimist that I am) – having 2 possible starters from one country might bode really ill for international breaks. IF both Calvo and Venegas are starters, which seems somewhere between likely and possible.

    Still, can’t pass up good players because of something that MIGHT happen.

    • Jeff Rueter

      Lately, Venegas has been more of a sure-thing to start for Los Ticos than Calvo. That said, Calvo is still one of the younger defenders in their pool and could gain more time.

      It isn’t a pessimistic concern — it’s a very real one. Aside from WC qualifiers, there shouldn’t be too many conflicts. There’s a Gold Cup, but in 2015 MLS took a pseudo-break to minimize roster loss. Here’s hoping the schedule is as kind in 2017.

      • Dave Laidig

        Fortunately, the MLS schedule is somewhat forgiving in the number of teams making the playoffs. Other good teams also will have defections during international breaks, and roster selection can be managed a bit to minimize the loss.

  • John Herman

    Cool that it’s confirmed now and only used TAM. I’m getting anxious about those 3 unfilled DP slots though. I don’t mind sitting on one or even 2 of them if there’s nothing out there yet, but… surely we can find someone out there. I would be happy using 2 spots on Calvo-esque players and saving one for the right opportunity, but all this radio silence is starting to get to me.