Oh, how far we’ve come in eight months. Minnesota United’s inaugural season is set to wrap up in San Jose on Sunday, which will put an end to a year that saw a plethora of signings, benchings, and — at times — a revolving door of starting players.
With the end of the season looming large on the horizon, we thought it would be a fun idea to take a look at some of the players that featured on the Loons preseason roster and provide a brief rundown as to how their 2017 seasons went. We should caution you that one of the players featured in this piece will bring back painful memories for U.S. Men’s National Team fans. You’ve been warned!
The Loons invested significant draft capital to draft Alec Ferrell, who was the first goalkeeper off the board in the 2017 MLS SuperDraft. Ferrell was injured when he was selected by the Loons and never made an appearance for the team in the pre-season due to said mysterious injury. The Loons did not sign Ferrell to a contract but retain his rights. The team seemed high on him coming into the season, so it’ll be interesting to see if he’ll pop up somewhere in the lower leagues when healthy.
Lyon didn’t make an appearance for the Loons in their preseason after trialing with the team, but was able to latch on with Orange County Soccer Club in the USL. Lyon, who was a former fourth-round draft choice by the Sounders back in 2015, has enjoyed a solid year with OCSC, making 31 appearances and keeping seven clean sheets.
Goalkeeper Marco Carducci followed former goalkeeping coach Marius Rovde to Minnesota from the Vancouver Whitecaps but he never featured for the Loons during their preseason games. A former member of the Whitecaps Residency program, Carducci still has plenty of time to develop as he just turned 21-years-old a few weeks ago. The Alberta native signed with USL side Rio Grande Valley FC back in March and made six starts between the sticks, conceding 15 goals.
Perhaps most noteworthy for his brutal own goal in a friendly against Bournemouth back in 2016 (editor note: blame it on the jelly), Sammy Ndjock was named in the Loons preseason roster for 2017 but parted ways with the team in early February. The thrice-capped Cameroonian keeper did not sign with a club this season and remains a free agent at the age of 27.
Those of you who have followed the United States Men’s National Team closely will remember the name, Alvin Jones. The Trinidad and Tobago international spent time with MNUFC this pre-season, playing in the team’s friendly against Portland. The 23-year-old left back failed to make the Loons roster but made serious waves just weeks ago when his long-range blast put Trinidad and Tobago up 2-0 on the United States in the last game of World Cup Qualifying. The U.S. went on to lose that game and miss out on the 2018 World Cup in Russia. Jones, who happens to be the younger brother of Sounders defender Joevin Jones, has been playing with TT Pro League side W Connection F.C. this year, a side that he’s turned out for since 2012.
Midfielder/defender Andrew Tinari trialed with the Loons after playing for Columbia University for four seasons. The former Lion signed with USL side New York Red Bulls II in late March after not receiving an offer from Minnesota. The New York Native featured in 23 games for Red Bulls II, playing over 1500 minutes – scoring two goals and providing two assists.
After spending the 2016 season as a member of Minnesota United’s NASL side, defender/winger Lance Laing played for the Loons in their preseason scrimmage against the Revolution but did not make the side out of camp. The Jamaican international has excelled at the NASL level, having been named to the league’s Best XI a whopping three times.
He returned to the league once again this year, as he turned out for North Carolina FC. Laing has enjoyed quite a bit of success with NCFC this season as he was named the league’s Player of the Week back in May for a two-goal performance against Jacksonville. North Carolina’s front office was so impressed with the Jamaican’s play this year that his contract was extended through next season at the end of July. Laing is just one of a handful of former Loons (cough, Stefano Pinho, cough) that have landed on their feet elsewhere, which is always nice to see.
Brazilian center back Tiago Calvano spent three seasons with Minnesota United prior to their move to MLS but was unable to make the team out of camp in 2017. The 36-year-old signed with the USL’s Harrisburg City Islanders prior to their season and has started 24 games for the Pennsylvania-based side. According to Jeff Rueter, Calvano’s contract with Minnesota was guaranteed through this season so he’s still being paid by the team, despite the fact that he was cut prior to the MLS season.
Ish Jome was the lone preseason invitee/trialist to make the Loons MLS roster out of camp. The 22-year-old has made 12 appearances for the team this season, starting seven games. The Gambian-born utility man has looked out of his depth at times but was trusted by Adrian Heath to play significant minutes early in the year. After featuring as a sub or starter six times in a six-game span, Jome has played just 90 minutes since the third week of August. The Loons clearly think the Brooklyn Park native has potential, and he could make the team’s roster yet again in 2018.
LaCroix, who featured in the team’s first pre-season friendly against New England, caught on with Orange County Soccer Club and is teammates with goalkeeping trialist Charlie Lyon. The former Indy Eleven man appeared in just five games for OCSC this season but managed to get on the scoresheet twice.
Former U.S. youth international Eugene Starikov seemed as though he had done enough to merit a place in the Loons inaugural MLS side but he ultimately did not and signed with the New York Cosmos of the NASL. The Ukranian born forward scored twice for Minnesota in the preseason and provided an assist on a Johan Venegas goal, which had many fans thinking that he merited a place on the roster.
After toiling around in obscurity in Russia and Ukraine for the better parts of five years, Starikov has played well for the Cosmos as of late, providing a goal and an assist against Puerto Rico F.C. on October 18th. The former Zenit product has started 10 games for the New York side so far in 2017.
Not to be confused with the legendary Real Madrid striker Raul Gonzalez, the American midfielder from Mississippi spent some time with Minnesota during their preseason camps, seeing game action against New England and Vancouver. The 23-year-old agreed to a contract with the Richmond Kickers of the USL and has seen heavy minutes for the Kickers in 2017, tallying two goals and one assist.
Tanner, who is the younger brother of San Jose midfielder Tommy Thompson, was a fourth-round SuperDraft selection of the Loons who played against both New England and Portland. The former Indiana University product returned to the Hoosier state, signing with NASL side Indy Eleven. Thompson has played in 18 games for Indy but has struggled to find his form, scoring just one goal and providing one assist in just shy of 900 minutes of soccer.
Former Butler forward and Bristol, England, native David Goldsmith ended up signing with Indy Eleven, making his debut for the team in late April. Besides being teammates with former Loons draftee Tanner Thompson, Goldsmith has played 23 times for Indy this season, scoring twice and notching two assists.
Should the Loons have held on to some of these players? Do you think they were better off without them? Sound off in the comments below.