Sneak Peek: Minnesota United plays catch-up

In comparison to Atlanta United, MLS's other expansion team, Minnesota United got a late start building its team for its 2017 launch. It wasn't until after Christmas that the Loons made their first signing from outside MLS or their NASL team. Perhaps most telling, in contrast to Atlanta's three Designated Players, Minnesota will be the only team besides D.C. United that doesn't have a DP on its opening-day roster.

Opening day ...
Projected XI -- Alvbage; Davis, Calvo, Demidov, Taylor; Ibarra, Molino, Warner, Schueller; J.Venegas, Ramirez.

Still, head coach Adrian Heath and general manager Manny Lagos have been working hard to catch up. The pieces are there for a competitive team, much more competitive than many expansions teams of the past, but no expansion team has made the playoffs in their first season since Seattle in 2009. A playoff berth would make MNUFC one of the big MLS stories of the year.

The core of the team comes from players brought in from Scandinavia leagues (Swedes John Alvbage and Rasmus Schueller, Norwegian Vadim Demidov and Dane Bashkim Kadrii plus often-injured U.S. speedster Josh Gatt) and players who played on the NASL Loons (captain Justin Davis, Miguel Ibarra and Christian Ramirez among others).

The key could be two Costa Rican internationals: Johan Venegas (who has two years of MLS experience with Montreal) and Francisco Calvo (whose only experience outside Costa Rica is one year of JC ball at San Jacinto College and one year in Denmark).

Probably the biggest weakness in the Loons could be their lack of MLS experience. Heath knows all about starting up an expansion team -- a year and half at Orlando City -- and Lagos played 10 years in MLS before following his father, Minnesota soccer pioneer Buzz Lagos, into coaching, but only four projected starters have any MLS experience (17 years among Jermaine Taylor, Collen Warner, Kevin Molino and Venegas).

Minnesota United will need patience from its fans. In the old NASL days, the Minnesota Kicks were one of the league's great stories. MNUFC is building a new stadium in St. Paul and will play at the University of Minnesota's TCF Bank Stadium.

Minnesota United is going to be compared to its expansion partner, Atlanta United, on a lot of fronts and won't come close to matching Atlanta's season-ticket sales of more than 30,000 (an MLS expansion record), but it already has a loyal following.

More than 150 fans from the Dark Clouds will be at the Lions' opening game Friday at Portland.

Who's in ...
GOALKEEPERS: John Alvbage (IFK Goteborg/SWE, Loan), Patrick McLain (Orlando City, Trade), Bobby Shuttleworth (New England Revolution, Trade). DEFENDERS: Francisco Calvo (Saprissa/CRC, Transfer), Justin Davis (NASL), Vadim Demidov (Brann/NOR, Transfer), Joseph Greenspan (Colorado Rapids, Trade), Brent Kallman (NASL), Jermaine Taylor (Portland Timbers, Free Agent),  Jerome Thiesson (FC Luzern/SUI, Transfer), Kevin Venegas (NASL). MIDFIELDERS: Bernardo Anor (NASL), Josh Gatt (Molde/NOR, Free Agent), Miguel Ibarra (Leon/MEX, Transfer), Ibson (NASL), Ismaila Jome (NASL), Collin Martin (D.C. United, Trade), Kevin Molino (Orlando City, Trade), Mohammed Saeid (Columbus Crew, Expansion Draft), Rasmus Schueller (Hacken/SWE, Transfer), Collen Warner (Houston Dynamo, Expansion Draft), Johan Venegas (Montreal Impact, Trade). FORWARDS: Abu Danladi (UCLA, SuperDraft), Bashkim Kadrii (FC Copenhagen/DEN, Loan), Christian Ramirez (NASL).

Who's out ...
GOALKEEPERS: none. DEFENDERS: Chris Duvall (Montreal Impact, Trade). MIDFIELDERS: none. FORWARDS: Femi Hollinger-Janzen (New England Revolution, Trade).

First five games ...
March 3 -- at Portland
March 12 -- Atlanta United
March 18 -- at Colorado
March 25 -- at New England
April 1 -- Real Salt Lake

Minnesota United
2017 Roster (24 players):
GOALKEEPERS (3): John Alvbage (IFK Goteborg/SWE, Loan), Patrick McLain (Orlando City, Trade), Bobby Shuttleworth (New England Revolution, Trade)
DEFENDERS (8): Francisco Calvo (Saprissa/CRC, Transfer), Justin Davis (NASL), Vadim Demidov (Brann/NOR, Transfer), Joseph Greenspan (Colorado Rapids, Trade), Brent Kallman (NASL), Jermaine Taylor (Portland Timbers, Free Agent),  Jerome Thiesson (FC Luzern/SUI, Transfer), Kevin Venegas (NASL).
MIDFIELDERS (11): Bernardo Anor (NASL), Josh Gatt (Molde/NOR, Free Agent), Miguel Ibarra (Leon/MEX, Transfer), Ibson (NASL), Ismaila Jome (NASL), Collin Martin (D.C. United, Trade), Kevin Molino (Orlando City, Trade), Mohammed Saeid (Columbus Crew, Expansion Draft), Rasmus Schueller (Hacken/SWE, Transfer), Collen Warner (Houston Dynamo, Expansion Draft), Johan Venegas (Montreal Impact, Trade).
FORWARDS (3): Abu Danladi (UCLA, SuperDraft), Bashkim Kadrii (FC Copenhagen/DEN, Loan), Christian Ramirez (NASL).
------------------------------
Departed:
GOALKEEPERS:
DEFENDERS: Chris Duvall (Montreal Impact, Trade).
MIDFIELDERS:
FORWARDS: Femi Hollinger-Janzen (New England Revolution, Trade).



1 comment about "Sneak Peek: Minnesota United plays catch-up".
  1. josh Roberson, March 2, 2017 at 10:40 a.m.

    From Loons to Lions! Should be a roaring good time at the opening game.

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