And so it begins...
The first real transfer news of the offseason has arrived. Minnesota United, along with all of the other Major League Soccer clubs, announced today which contracts will be picked up next year and which won’t. There weren’t any major surprises, but there is still some juicy stuff to dig into. There are three categories of players: those whose contracts were already guarenteed for next season, those who had options picked up, and those who had options declined.
There was never a doubt...
(Players that are still under contract)
Forwards: Abu Danladi, Christian Ramirez
Midfielders: Sam Cronin, Ethan Finlay, Miguel Ibarra, Kevin Molino, Sam Nicholson, Rasmus Schuller, Collen Warner
Defenders: Michael Boxall, Marc Burch, Francisco Calvo, Vadim Demidov, Jerome Thiesson
This is more or less what the front office considers the core of the team, these players were assumed to last more than one year when they were signed. It’s a relief to see most of these players retained, especially Jerry (I was more nervous than I should’ve been when reading through the list United put out). It’s obviously disappointing to see that Vadim Demidov is still affiliated with the team, but it doesn’t sound like he will be returning any time soon. There are still some names missing though...
What a save!
(Players with their contract options picked up for another year)
Forwards: Johan Venegas
Midfielders: Ibson, Collin Martin
Defenders: Brent Kallman
Goalkeepers: Alex Kapp, Bobby Shuttleworth
Again, there aren’t a ton of shockers here. Ibson, Kallman, and Shuttleworth were all starters or close to it, so it makes sense for them to come back. Johan Venegas has potential—just look at how he plays for Costa Rica—so maybe a show of confidence will help bring that out in him next season. I still haven’t reached a verdict on Martin. Adrian Heath seems to be convinced that there is something there, but I really think Martin needs more starts to really show what he’s got. I know nothing about Kapp other than that he was briefly with Atlanta United. I’m sure he’s got some great ability, and I love the idea of having a young keeper on the roster (too bad Marius Rovde won’t be around to teach him), but I’m not convinced Kapp is a backup GK yet.
(Players the club aren’t picking up for another season)
Forwards: Brandon Allen (loan expired—back to New York Red Bulls)
Midfielders: Bernardo Anor, Ismalia Jome
Defenders: Justin Davis, Thomas de Villardi, Joseph Greenspan, Jermaine Taylor, Kevin Venegas
Goalkeepers: Patrick McLain (contract expired)
And now the real meaty part arrives. Allen returned to RBNY after his loan expired. I’m personally not gutted on this one. I would’ve been fine with him staying, I remember hearing good things about him from our pals over at Once A Metro, but it’s not like he was going to regularly contribute here. Bernardo Anor will be forever remembered as the Ghostly Loon, if anyone remembers him at all. I guess the Ish experiment came to an end. It was fun to see Ish get a shot in MLS, but I do think this will turn out to be the right move. I have a feeling we’ll see him get a spot in USL (it would have been nice to send him to an affiliate team). Seeing Davis and Kevin Venegas go is sad, especially for longtime fans. It’s probably best for both—neither were going to play much, and I saw Justin Davis looking awfully unhappy in the concourse of the last home game. Plenty of fans are understandably unhappy with this decision, but I think we all knew it was going to come at some point. We were lucky to see as many of our NASL favorites join the MLS roster, and as the saying goes, all good things must come to an end.
I wrote a profile on Thomas de Villardi right after he was drafted. He’s a fascinating story, but his Achilles Tendon injury came at the worst possible time. I’m actually disappointed that Greenspan and Taylor are leaving. Greenspan may very well be done for good, I don’t think he ever quite bounced back from that nasty head injury from the Open Cup match against Sporting Kansas City. People forget that Jermaine Taylor was named to the Gold Cup Best XI. He’s a good player to have in the mix, and I think we could’ve gotten something for him in the transfer market. I didn’t get to see much of McLain, the only reason I’m disappointed to see him go are his roots nearby in Eau Claire.
So, where will we see some moves?
Goalkeeper for sure. Kapp is not ready to be thrown into a backup role. Bobby is actually in a bit of precarious spot right now. The Loons could splash some cash and bring in someone to start ahead of Shuttleworth, and based off of prior rumors and links, that is entirely possible. Personally, I think it makes more sense to add a backup in a similar way to how McLain was brought in—lump into a trade or check the free agent market.
With almost half (five out of eleven) of United’s defenders jettisoned, there will have to be some defensive depth moves. I get the impression that Heath sees Jerry, Calvo, and Boxall as starters, with Kallman as a solid option off the bench. I don’t think Marc Burch’s starting role is safe, especially after the time he missed with injury last season. I have a feeling we’ll mostly see defenders brought in this offseason, after all, there are more than enough attacking options on the roster right now.
And now to add to my wishlist...
There are tons of solid players who had their options declined, like Ilsinho (PHI) and Antonio Nocerino (ORL), but I’ll stay semi-realistic and pick out a backup goalkeeper—and it’s more excting than you’d think.
Yep, that’s former Thunder and United GK Matt van Oekel. He was the backup to Nick Rimando at Real Salt Lake, but had his contract option declined. His salary comes in under $100k, so I think he’s a viable (and potentially fan-supported) option to back Bobby up.