We did it! Match week is upon us! After a long off-season, a change in leagues, new players and a new coach, we have actually made it to match week. After fretting over how MNUFC has been handling the transition to MLS for the past seven months we can finally put that behind us and focus on honest-to-goodness matches. For the next ten months we get to actually talk soccer and not whether we should #PANIC over every little off-the-field issue. I don’t know about you, but that excites me as I am tired of being concerned whether or not MNUFC should be doing a more with their advertising campaign. So let’s talk some soccer and see how we at EPL think this season will play out. Join in the conversation in the comment section.
What are you most looking forward to this season?
Siems: I'm looking forward to watching some of the international acquisitions. Between Kadrii and Schuller, I think they could be creative and fun to watch.
KatoSportsGirl: Goalkeeping, I would like to see who we go with and stick with considering how many we have at that spot.
ctomashot: I'm excited to see who begins to emerge as our best players.
birsch: I am interested to see how gamedays at TCF Bank Stadium are. I'm not necessarily concerned about the lack of tailgating (where there's a will, there's a way) but I am interested to see how MNUFC builds out the gameday atmosphere in the neighborhood. Hopefully they are able to sneak some food trucks onto the concourse under the scoreboard.
Garrett Denney: Seeing that beautiful Loon crest march onto the pitch for an honest-to-goodness MLS match. I am a man of simple delights.
Stephen Taylor: I'm looking forward to see a Minnesota soccer team playing in the big leagues. I've dreamed of this since I was a kid watching the Thunder play so this is a long time coming for me.
Eli Hoff: The moment when Minnesota United walks onto the pitch on the 12th. It will mean MLS has finally made it to Minnesota.
Alex Gormley: I'm looking forward to seeing how this team gels as an attacking unit. They have a number of very good attacking players and I feel that they could play a very attractive brand of soccer once they've all settled in.
Alvaro Fernandez Fernandez: Just feeling the happiness of watching MNUFC playing in the MLS, at last. And I will also enjoy seeing how this team and this club grow, week after week, season after season. The adventure begins…
dvits14: So many ways I could go with this. I’m curious to see how the atmosphere at TCF Bank Stadium will compare to the atmosphere at Nessie. I’m looking forward to seeing how the team comes together and how all of the new players to the league make the adjustment. I think there is a lot of potential with this group but it is ultimately unproven MLS potential. But I’m mostly looking forward to getting to watch all of the MLS teams in person.
What is your biggest concern going into the season?
Siems: The fullbacks. I am happy they got more depth with Thiessen, but he still doesn't make me feel confident. As much as I like Davis and Venegas, they may not prove to be MLS fullbacks.
KatoSportsGirl: The back line as they seem to constantly be getting beaten. If they don't improve it will be a long season.
ctomashot: I am concerned about finding a reliable and consistent starting XI quickly.
birsch: Injuries. And now that I said that, we are guaranteed a few injuries. Sorry, friends.
Garrett Denney: Defense gets all the press these days, so I’ll go for something else. Chemistry among our attacking corps is something that could really make or break this team’s tactics. Heath is an attacking coach, which will be a fantastic play style for a burgeoning team. Let’s make sure there is fluid passing and possession once the ball makes it into the final third. We’re certainly not short on talent.
Stephen Taylor: Our defense has looked suspect for good chunks of the preseason and I'm not even sure who our best back four is. Hopefully Heath has that figured out.
Eli Hoff: Goalkeeping. Our back line could be shaky, but I feel okay now that Thiesson will be back there. Alvbage hasn't convinced me and neither have has Patrick McLain.
Alex Gormley: I'm going to say the fullback positions. Jermaine Taylor has looked out of his depths at times in the preseason and Thiesson will likely take some time to adjust to things once he finally is able to link up with the squad. Goalkeeping is another area that could be dicey this season but I like what the Loons did by bringing in Bobby Shuttleworth. It's easy to forget that he was the backstop for the Revolution team that lost to Los Angeles in the MLS Cup a few years back.
Alvaro Fernandez Fernandez: I know this is the easy answer, but that's how I feel it: I think we are going to receive a huge amount of goals. This means we are going to have fun, because I also think we are going to score a huge amount of goals. 4-4 games, anyone?
dvits14: My biggest concern is all of the new players to the league don’t adjust well and this season turns into a giant train wreck.
Which MNUFC player are you most looking forward to watching play and why?
Siems: Kadrii, Schuller, Saeid, and Calvo easily.
KatoSportsGirl: Ibarra and Ramirez as I want to see how they transition coming from NASL to MLS.
ctomashot: I want to see if Ramirez can continue to score the way he has in the past.
birsch: Kadrii because
and Molino because
Garrett Denney: This is the hardest question for me to answer. The preseason displayed so many bright spots, it’s difficult to pick just one player to hype. If I must, I’ll go with Francisco Calvo. I’m a big fan of Costa Rican soccer. Despite Calvo coming from Saprissa (long live Liga!), I think he’s going to be a stalwart at the back of our formation.
Stephen Taylor: While I look forward to seeing what Ramirez can do in MLS, this has to be Molino for me. He's looked exciting and dangerous nearly every time he touches the ball. I think his price might seem like a bargain at the end of the year.
Eli Hoff: Francisco Calvo. I saw a highlight clip from one of his goals with the Costa Rican national team it clearly showed he has a unique attacking ability. Hopefully he is able to master the art of goal-line clearances (see Portland tournament) quickly.
Alex Gormley: Abu Danladi and Josh Gatt. Danladi has a ton of hype surrounding him as he was the first pick in the SuperDraft, and he plays as a forward so it'll be interesting to see how he adapts to MLS caliber defenses. I'm interested in seeing Gatt play as he was a highly regarded USMNT prospect before getting bit by the injury bug. He has the ability to be a key player for the Loons this season if he can stay healthy and he could potentially work his way back into the National Team picture.
Alvaro Fernandez Fernandez: Even though I'm intrigued by our signings, I really want to see if Batman and Superman belong to MLS. I have been wondering about this the last couple years, and now I will have the answer.
dvits14: Ramirez and Ibarra. Just like everyone, I want to see if they can have the same type of success they had at the NASL level. I’m also curious to see how Ramirez handles potentially not being “the man” like he has been the past three years. Will he accept a potential diminished role or will he sulk and let it affect his play?
Do any Loons players make MLS Best XI at the end of the season?
Siems: I think Molino could sneak in to the MLS Best XI.
KatoSportsGirl: At this point it's too early to tell, we should know by the halfway point.
ctomashot: Depends on whether the team can find enough consistency to allow individuals to thrive.
birsch: Midseason GK signing _______ will make the Best XI.
Garrett Denney: Kevin Molino certainly has a shot, if his preseason form is any indication. Though he may not make the Best XI, Johan Venegas seems poised to break out this year for the Loons. Keep an eye on both Molino and Venegas.
Stephen Taylor: Molino. He had a hell of a year last year and now he has a manager who favors him and a system tailored to him. I expect big things.
Eli Hoff: Molino does. He's established himself in MLS already, so as long as he can perform at a similar level he should be in the conversation. Also, if Calvo can pull his style off he'll be in contention.
Alex Gormley: Given his performances from last season and how he's looked this preseason I'd say Kevin Molino has a decent shot at making the MLS Best XI.
Alvaro Fernandez Fernandez: Molino, if any. I think he is special, and Heath will make him shine. I also expect Venegas to be a top scorer in the league, but too many big names there to be included in MLS Best XI.
dvits14: If anyone has a chance it will be Molino but, no, I don’t think anyone on the current roster will make the Best XI this season.
Does MNUFC make the playoffs?
Siems: No. They miss out by about 8-10 points, but are at least competitive in almost every game. They won't be in the playoffs, but they won't be the worst in the West either. (Not feeling too confident in the Dynamo.)
KatoSportsGirl: No and I don't see Atlanta making it either, the MLS has good competition and even though it has (in my opinion) to large of playoffs we just won't be good enough to make the cut in year one.
ctomashot: Probably not. I think trying to match Orlando City's first season placement is a much more realistic but still optimistic goal.
birsch: No, but we get the satisfaction of knocking out (team we will come to hate as season progresses) of playoff contention in the last few weeks of the season.
Garrett Denney: Making the playoffs is probably too ambitious of a goal, but I do think we have a realistic chance of ending up just shy of a playoff berth. Coming that close would be fantastic for the fans and would prove a lot of doubters wrong.
Stephen Taylor: My best-case scenario is us stealing the 6th spot in the west. That being said, should we not qualify, I won't panic. Heath says he expects us to be competing for the Cup in 3 years and I'll take that. Rome wasn't built in a day.
Eli Hoff: I highly doubt it. If we could be in the mix that would be a fantastic accomplishment. Orlando City achieved that in their first season, so hopefully Heath can bring that with. Heath's three-year plan will bring home the cup in 2019 though (you heard it here first).
Alex Gormley: I'm going to venture out on a limb here and say yes. With 12 playoff spots for grabs and only 22 teams in the league, they have a decent chance at snagging one of the spots that plays in the Knockout Round. Their attacking prowess should give them enough scoring output to hang with some of the tougher teams this season.
Alvaro Fernandez Fernandez: I honestly don't think so, and that's perfectly fine. I think the goal of this team should be "compete every game", and we will do it. We won't be the worst team in MLS history. Period.
dvits14: Honestly, I have zero expectations for this season. As I mentioned above, I think they have a lot of potential and I think they may have a shot at the playoffs if they play to their potential. But if they don’t play anywhere near their potential and all of the players who are new to MLS struggle, it could be a long, long season. Ultimately, I just want them to be competitive this season. I’m more concerned with the long play than the short play.
How would you answer the question? How do you see the season playing out? Let us know your thoughts.