Minnesota United's front office has received some flak for busts such as Vadim Demidov and some of the other Scandanavian buys, but those purchases are only half of the story. The front office has also made four trades in United's brief time as an MLS franchise. With the season close to half over, there's enough of a sample size to evaluate those moves.
Chris Duvall to Montreal Impact for Johan Venegas
There are probably quite a few Minnesota United fans who don’t remember the brief hour the Chris Duvall was a Loon. Duvall, a right-back, was Minnesota’s first selection in the expansion draft, taken from the New York Red Bulls. In a previously orchestrated trade, Duvall and some General Allocation Money were sent to Montreal for Costa Rican international Johan Venegas.
Duvall has been solid for Montreal so far, starting eleven games and appearing in one other. Comparing Duvall to current right-back Jerome Thiesson, though, shows that this may have been a smart trade. Thiesson has more interceptions and tackles, though he fouls a bit more, according to statistics from whoscored.com. Duvall appears to be weaker in one-on-one situations, when he is dribbled past twice as much as Thiesson.
The trade involved Johan Venegas, not Jerome Thiesson. Things have been a bit rocky for the Tico. It’s hard to statistically compare a forward with a defender, besides their average match ratings on whoscored.com. Duvall has an edge here by about 0.4, which might change over the course of the season.
Comparing the two players directly isn’t easy, but with Minnesota’s current right-back playing better than Duvall is, this move holds up fine.
Jeff Attinella to Portland Timbers for 2nd round pick and discovery rights to Miguel Ibarra
At the time, this deal left many fans excited, but a little nervous. This meant that former Minnesota United and United States National Team midfielder Miguel Ibarra was likely coming back (United had to pay a transfer fee to Liga MX’s Club Leon to resign him), but Minnesota United was left without a keeper, one of the early causes of #PANIC. Goalkeeper Alec Ferrell was drafted with the SuperDraft pick acquired in the deal.
Jeff Attinella has been the number two goalkeeper for Portland Timbers this season, seeing action in three matches, all starts. He gave up six goals in those matches, resulting in a win, a draw, and a loss. Bobby Shuttleworth, the current keeper, has been stellar in goal for the Loons (more on him later).
Initially, Ibarra wasn’t part of the starting lineup. Manager Adrian Heath cited fitness concerns, due to the lack of playing time Ibarra received at Club Leon. He has since become a regular in the attacking midfield, proving instrumental at times for United.
The SuperDraft pick hasn’t turned into much yet. Ferrell had a preexisting injury at the time of the draft and hasn’t recovered yet. Until the young keeper is ready to play, there isn’t much to discuss.
Trading a backup level goalkeeper for a fan-favorite star midfielder and young keeper is certainly a solid gain.
Femi Hollinger-Janzen to New England Revolution for Bobby Shuttleworth
There was much excitement when Femi was selected by Minnesota in the Expansion Draft. The young attacker showed promising signs of talent in preseason highlight reels, but just before the season started, he was traded back to his original team for goalkeeper Bobby Shuttleworth.
Femi hasn’t gotten much action this season, making eight appearances totaling just 115 minutes. He hasn’t produced any goals or assists in that limited time. It must be noted that the attacking midfielder is just 23 years old.
Bobby Shuttleworth was initially the backup to John Alvbage at the beginning of the season, but when the Swede went down with an injury in the home opener, Bobby stepped up. He has since become a top tier keeper in MLS. Shuttleworth ranks seventh in saves made and sits near the top in save percentage, as well as leading the league in kicks to the face, with three.
Hollinger-Janzen may turn into something special in the future, but this move is paying great dividends in the present. With Shuttleworth proving a crucial part of Minnesota United’s defensive turnaround, this was certainly a savvy move.
Josh Gatt, Mohammed Saeid, and 2019 3rd round pick to Colorado Rapids for Sam Cronin and Marc Burch
This move came as something of a shock to many fans, but it was definitely a welcome surprise. There were some complicated bits of legal finesse in parts of this deal, but just weeks after drawing on the road to the Colorado Rapids, Minnesota had traded for their captain and a solid left-back.
Josh Gatt was something of a question mark for United. The former youth international didn’t appear for the Loons, but he has made several appearances, including a start, with Colorado. He notched an assist against Columbus Crew last weekend, but hasn’t done much else.
Mohammed Saeid was struggling to find a role in Minnesota. He was placed in both attacking and defensive midfield, but wasn’t able to fit well in either. He has been starting in left midfield consistently for Colorado, picking up one assist in nine appearances.
Sam Cronin and Marc Burch were immediately thrown into the starting lineup for United. Both have performed well, and have helped to solidify a previously rocky defense for the Loons. Burch has had a few struggles of late, but he has nonetheless been a fixture at left-back. Cronin was suspended for a rough tackle in last weekend’s loss to Sporting Kansas City, but has been a proficient midfielder and--most importantly-- a defensive leader for Minnesota.
Both teams came out fairly even in this deal, but coaxing Colorado into trading two starters in exchange for a couple of fringe players and a 3rd round pick was some clever negotiating.
Looking back at these four trades, Minnesota has at the least come out even in each of them. If the front office can continue this trend, the Loons can become a strong team in the future.
What do you think of the trades so far this season? Would you take any of them back?