No season in MLS is ever the same. New teams, a heavily rotatable playing staff, rising expectations and a changing culture in the beautiful game, is slowly but surely changing the fortunes of the league for the better. Ahead of the 2019 season, eagle eyed viewers will have noticed post-season developments from Minnesota, a side who have largely struggled in their first two seasons as an MLS franchise, and have begun to taken notice. Our new Contributor, Joshua Jones, talks about the rising fortunes of The Loons ahead of the new campaign and makes a case for a first play-off birth in club history. All aboard.
Minnesota United: 2019's Breakthrough Team?
2018 Position: 10th (West), 18th (overall)
Manager: Adrian Heath
Captain: Francisco Calvo
Stadium: Allianz Field (19,400 capacity)
The 2019 Major League Soccer campaign is less than a month away and Minnesota United are a side expected to secure a top six finish having improved their squad significantly.
Minnesota’s first two campaigns in Major League Soccer have seen them record consecutive 36 point returns, comfortably short of that required to reach the end of season play-offs. Orlando City and San Jose Earthquakes were the only sides who suffered more losses than Minnesota last term as they finished 18th in the combined standings.
Week 1-10 Fixtures: Minnesota
Week 1: Vancouver Whitecaps (A)
Week 2: San Jose Earthquakes (A)
Week 3: LA Galaxy (A)
Week 4: Bye Week
Week 5: New England Revolution (A)
Week 6: New York Red Bulls (A)
Week 7: New York City FC (H)
Week 8: Toronto (A)
Week 9: LA Galaxy (H) & D.C. United (H)
Week 10: Seattle Sounders (H)
Who are Minnesota's Key Players and Signings?
Darwin Quintero was the team’s stand out performer in 2018, however Minnesota were far too dependant on the Colombian. In just 27 MLS fixtures, the 31-year-old was involved in 24 goals (11 goals & 15 assists), with only four forwards scoring more MLS fantasy points. In Quintero and Angelo Rodriguez they have enough going forward; however Adrian Heath clearly needed to address issues at the other end of the pitch.
In the form of Ike Opara and Osvaldo Alonso, they have added quality and incredible experience, with the pair arriving from MLS rivals Sporting Kansas City and Seattle Sounders respectively.
The signing of Opara appears to be a real coup for the club. The 2017 MLS defender of the year will improve a back line that shipped 71 goals in 2018, the joint second worst in the division. Defensive midfield was another position that needed improving and in the form of Alonso they’ve brought one of the stand out midfielder in MLS history.
Further recruitment in the form of Slovakian international Jan Gregus and Romain Metanire will improve the squad. Minnesota are also on the verge of a deal with the former Arsenal goalkeeper Vito Mannone and he will give Bobby Shuttleworth real competition for the number one jersey, something the American hasn’t had during his time with the club.
Will the completion of Allianz Field provide an upturn of form?
Minnesota shared a stadium with the city’s NFL and college football side during their first two years in existence, however come April, they will be moving into their own ground. At times last season the state of the TCF Bank Stadium pitch was poor and with three teams regularly using the surface, that was to be expected.
This won’t be an issue come the 2019 campaign and early images of the pitch and stadium itself look incredible. Although the capacity of the Allianz Field will be significantly down on the TCF, having a place to call home can not be understated.
Minnesota remain long outsiders for the 2019 MLS, however a first ever venture into the play-offs is a minimum this campaign.
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