Robin Lod was ‘the guy in the middle’ of Teemu Pukki’s move to Minnesota United

14 July 2023

After his first training session with Minnesota United last Friday, Teemu Pukki strolled off the field and gravitated toward Robin Lod.

It was a casual movement, yet seemed intentional. And it was completely fitting.

Pukki is in Minnesota because of Lod, his compatriot on the Finland national team since 2015. Lod joined MNUFC in 2019 and told the Pioneer Press this week he started to lobby for Pukki to join the Loons in 2021.

“I spoke with the gaffer (Adrian Heath), asking if we’re going to be interested in him coming to the MLS and everything,” Lod said. “And I think just now it was the right time.”

But it’s not perfect.

While Pukki scored his first MLS goal in his second appearance in the Loons’ 3-0 victory at Houston on Wednesday, he had to do it without Lod, who is out for the season with a torn meniscus in his right knee.

At Pukki’s introductory news conference, he said Lod played a “huge” role in him moving from Norwich City in England to MNUFC on a high-priced Designated Player contract.

“He was the guy in the middle in the beginning, before anything really happened,” Pukki said of Lod. “The club spoke to him and he asked me if I could be interested in coming here.”

Pukki said it’s “sad” Lod is currently sidelined and they won’t be able to play on the same club team until next season. “But can’t wait to play with him,” Pukki added. “I’ve always had a huge connection on the pitch and off the pitch with him.”

When Pukki came over to the sideline after practice in Blaine last week, Lod was sitting on an equipment container, taking a break between his rehabilitation workouts. They haven’t been far apart outside those white lines.

Pukki, signed through June 2025, is currently living in Lod’s home, with Lod’s wife and young daughter, while Pukki’s wife and two daughters are making their move from Finland to the Twin Cities area.

The two players’ wives are friends, and the age of Lod’s daughter falls between Pukki’s pair of girls, so the three girls can easily play together when the families convene.

Robin is helping Pukki get acclimated to Minnesota. “I try to do my best,” Lod said. “Show the best parts and just try to make him happy, obviously.”

A video circulated years ago of Pukki saying he wanted to get Lod to come join him in England, and Pukki followed up on that last week at Allianz Field.

“I don’t think it was anything,” he said. “I think that it was, I just really enjoy playing with him on the national team. … He knows me and how I play.”

Lod shared his perspective on Pukki’s playing style this week. “He’s not the flashiest player,” Lod said. “But he’s really smart. I think he makes really good runs off the ball and, obviously, he has a strong record of scoring goals. He’s a good finisher as well. So I think he’s just a smart guy, running and making space for himself.”

Pukki, Finland’s all-time leading goal scorer, backed up Lod’s assessment midweek in Texas with a deft run and slotted finish for his first MLS goal.

‘Weird’ injury

Lod initially thought he suffered only a minor leg knock, not an eventual season-ending knee injury, when it first occurred during 1-0 win over Houston on May 17.

He felt something in his calf and quadricep after a challenge with a Dynamo player, but the pain kind of went away and he finished a 90-minute shift that Wednesday at Allianz Field.

“Even after the game, on that night, I didn’t think anything,” Lod told the Pioneer Press. “But then the next morning, it felt really bad. I was like, OK, now something’s not right. Which is weird, because in the game, it didn’t feel too bad.”

Lod, 30, has not suffered an injury comparable to this one across his 13-year professional career. He said surgery went well and he has began the rehab process. Similar to Pukki, Lod is under contract in Minnesota through the 2025 season.

“Obviously, it’s tough,” Lod said. “It’s disappointing because that’s what we like to do: I feel like everybody likes to be on the field more than in the gym and in the recovery room. But it’s part of the game and (I’ve been) lucky to not be away (because of) major injuries for the longest time.”

Lod said he isn’t pegging a date for his return to the field. “I know it’s a while yet,” he said.

In the meantime, Lod will continue to rehab his knee and do whatever he can off the field to help his fellow Finn.

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