Minnesota United: Season Preview

2017 was the first year in Major League Soccer for Minnesota United, and they finished 9th in the Western Conference at their first attempt. It was a stark contrast to their expansion brothers, Atlanta United, as the Five Stripes marched into the postseason.

The season started terribly for the Loons, conceding 18 goals in their first four games, and ganging just a single point. Minnesota shipped five against Portland, Atlanta and New England, with a 2-2 draw against Colorado the high point. The first win came at the fifth attempt, with a 4-2 victory over Real Salt Lake, but it was just fits and starts from there.

The side won 10 of their 34 games in the league, but did get their own back on Atlanta late on in the season. The Loons came from 2-1 behind in stoppage time to win 3-2 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Christian Ramirez was the bright spark in 2017, scoring 14 goals in the league, while #1 SuperDraft pick, Abu Danladi, chipped in with eight strikes as well.

The offseason has been a busy one for Adrian Heath, with ten players leaving the club. Brandon Allen’s loan expired, while Justin Davis, Jermaine Taylor, Joseph Greenspan, Kevin Venegas, Vadim Demidov and Thomas de Villardi all left the defensive ranks of the club. Patrick McLain, Bernardo Anor and Ismaila Jome also left Minnesota this winter.

The manager’s son Harrison Heath, joined the club from Atlanta in December, and a Cameroonian pairing also made the move. Frantz Pangop and Bertrand Owundi have both moved from their native country to join the Loons for the 2018 season. Luis Fernando, a Brazilian midfielder, as also joined on loan from Fluminense.

In the 2017 Re-Entry Draft, Minnesota selected Tyrone Mears from Atlanta United, giving them more depth at the full-back position. Into the 2018 MLS SuperDraft, and Minnesota were the best of the bunch on the night. All four of their picks came in the first two rounds, with three picks in Round 1.

The Loons originally had the #5 pick, but traded that to Chicago for the #15 pick, $175,000 in allocation money, and GK Matt Lampson, who is expected to start in goal for the Loons this weekend. With that allocation money, Minnesota then acquired the #7 pick from Montreal.

Mason Toye was selected with the #7 pick, a pacy winger who is part of the Generation Adidas program. With the #15 pick, CB Wyatt Omsberg was selected from Dartmouth. Omsberg is expected to be in and around the squad from Day 1. Finally, the Loons acquired Carter Manley with the #23 pick, having sent $50,000 in allocation money and the #28 spot Toronto’s way.

It has been a tricky preseason for Minnesota, as they only managed one decent result against an MLS side over the course of February. They started with two wins, but against lower opposition. They defeated the FIU Panthers 4-1, before scoring eight past the Eastern Florida Titans four days later. However, their trip to Florida ended with a 4-1 defeat to Orlando City SC.

Minnesota then travelled to Charleston for the Carolina Challenge Cup, and only scored a single point from their three matches. They lost to Charleston Battery, a USL team, before getting that point against Atlanta United, thanks to a 1-1 draw. Minnesota then lost the final group game to Columbus Crew SC, who went on to win the tournament.


SQUAD (Number)

GK: Alex Kapp (24), Matt Lampson (28), Bobby Shuttleworth (33)

DF: Michael Boxall (25), Marc Burch (8), Francisco Calvo (5), Brent Kallman (14), Carter Manley (2), Tyrone Mears (4), Wyatt Omsberg (22), Bertrand Owundi (15), Jerome Thiesson (3)

MD: Sam Cronin (6), Luiz Fernando (29), Ethan Finlay (13), Harrison Heath (16), Miguel Ibarra (10), Ibson (7), Jose Leiton (77), Collin Martin (17), Kevin Molino (18), Sam Nicholson (12), Frantz Pangop (19), Rasmus Schuller (20), Johan Venegas (11), Collen Warner (26)

FW: Abu Danladi (9), Christian Ramirez (21), Mason Toye (23)
With all three first round draft picks going straight into the squad, Minnesota’s team becomes immediately younger. This will be another building year for the side, but they should be closer to the playoff picture. Finish: 8th.
Written by Matt Coles. (@MattJColes)


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