With the draft and transfer seasons looming, Minnesota United FC is expected to announce that they have signed defenders Kevin Venegas and Justin Davis to MLS contracts. It is tough to argue against the signings, but I am going to bring my best arguments to table while simultaneously discrediting them. Join me!
With the team since 2012, Kevin Venegas has been a constant for the Loons. He started with what seemed like no natural position, but since 2014, he has been at the right back position serving up crosses and flying into the offensive zone.
The case against:
Venegas is a fun player to watch, but he is prone to lapses in judgment. He loves his wing back role, but there were times last season where he overplayed a ball and left Damion Lowe, Brent Kallman, or (nightmare scenario) Sammy Ndjock to clean up after him. A winger in every sense of the word, Venegas’s biggest problem is his tendency to be too offensively minded.
With Venegas locked down, it is likely that we will be seeing him take a majority of the set pieces again this coming season. The only argument against him doing so would be the final game of the 2016 season where he took (what seemed like) 400 corner kicks with none resulting in a goal. Not necessarily his fault, but something to keep an eye on in 2017.
The Case For:
There is one stat to point to as to why you keep Viva. While missing 9 games due to injury this season, Venegas still finished tied for fourth in the league with 6 assists. For comparison, only one other defender finished with more than 3 assists in the NASL. No defender in the MLS tallied more than 6. His ability to deliver the ball from anywhere in the offensive zone makes him a constant threat to be a difference maker. A Best XI member in 2015, when a wing back can lead the team in assists, teams find a way to keep him.
While not stout in defense, Venegas is not without defensive ability. His speed and ability to track the play from the right side of the field would be an asset to any team in the MLS. The Loons will need all the defensive depth they can get their hands on. Enter Viva!
With Ramirez still unsigned, my working theory is that the soon-to-be Venegas contract is another way of convincing the striker that Minnesota is the place to stay. Ramirez seems to love playing with Venegas, and the interplay between the two this year was the best I have seen from any combination of players on the team since Ramirez had Miguel Ibarra feeding him passes.
In this writer’s opinion, the Venegas signing is a no-brainer. While he can annoy me to no end when he leaves his right back position, there is no one on the team better at delivering a curling cross than Viva. Maybe, just maybe, a Venegas signing is the incentive that Ramirez needs.
Oh, Justin… Justin Davis is the longest tenured Loon/Star, and that streak looks to continue as he will be making the trip to TCF Bank Stadium. At the National Sports Center, you would hear that 3 things are inevitable in life: death, taxes, and Justin Davis starting at Left Back. The two-time NASL Best XI (including this past season) has been with the team since 2011, and he will continue to do so for years to come.
The Case Against:
Davis is a solid defender, but that was in the NASL. The MLS is a faster league with much more skilled players up front. Davis is a physical defender, but he can have a hot head, and when he gets frustrated, it shows in his overall play on the field. He takes unnecessary fouls and can at times be a yellow card waiting to happen.
Offensively, Justin Davis is not the fullback that Venegas is. Scoring one goal this season, Davis has a wicked shot, but not necessarily an accurate shot. Davis is also not the threat to run into the offensive zone that Venegas is. His final passing is good, but not great. And really, I am just nitpicking.
The Case For:
Much like in my case for Venegas, I point to one factor that validates the contract. There is arguably no better leader on this team. The team rallies behind Davis. Especially this season, the team tended to go as Davis goes. Even if he starts the season as a pure depth piece on the defense, he is the leader that this team needs.
Death, taxes, Justin Davis at left back. This is not at all a bad thing. Consistency on the defensive side is something that this team will need going into the MLS.
Even if Davis ends up simply being a depth piece at the next level, his leadership ability is second to none. He will probably need to learn to stop and breathe at times, but it would be no surprise to see #2 wearing the captain’s armband at the next level.
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