Everyone knew that the inaugural season in Major League Soccer was not going to be an easy one for Minnesota United. The team was thrown together rather quickly, and that is bound to lead to some duds. Now that the inaugural season is winding down, I think it is time to look at the roster as it stands and pick players that should stay and players that should not.
For the purposes of length (and well, obviousness,) I will be omitting players that there is no question about their status. That includes players that have been the beacons for the future of the squad (Christian Ramirez, Kevin Molino, Abu Danladi, Francisco Calvo etc.)
Now, Minnesota United only has one impending free agent (Marc Burch, though Rueter reported he has already re-signed) and one impending league option (Bobby Shuttleworth). Both of those players are in the should return category. What I will be examining are those fringe players that are on longer contracts, but may be on the bubble of being let go.
Players That Should Return
Warner has been a surprise all season to me. While he will not and should not be a starter, Warner is a great option to come off the bench. Since the addition of Sam Cronin made Warner less likely to start, Warner has become one of my sentimental favorite players.
He plays hard, defends hard, and as we saw early in the season, he can contribute an odd goal or two. As a starter early in the season, Warner looked slow and anxious whenever he was on the ball, but he works hard coming off the bench. In what (hopefully) will be a more competitive season in 2018, a solid bench contributer will be needed.
I admit this is a homer pick. Ish is the hometown boy, I can’t advocate that he be cut. What I do think needs to happen is for him to be brought back and then loaned to USL (or whatever iteration of NASL is still around next season.)
Ish has plenty of moments of head scratching plays, and he still looks very nervous with the ball at his feet. However, he looks like he has the potential to be a solid contributor at a couple positions in this league.
I do not think he slots in at defender in his future (maybe as a wing back in 5-4-1 or 5-3-2 formation.)
The big man simply needs to stay healthy. Much like Warner, I do not see Greenspan as a future regular starter, but he is an effective body to come on late in close games. It’s rare to have a centerback the size of Joe Greenspan, and I think that given regular minutes, he can add solid depth on the backline.
He was one of the best defenders in USL during his loan spell with the Pittsburgh Riverhouds, so maybe another loan is what is needed to get him to MLS level.
Jermaine Taylor is not a fullback. It took this team far too long to realize what Jamaica already knew apparently. The CB for the Reggae Boyz was one of the best players at the Gold Cup this summer (making the tournament Best XI along the way.) At the beginning of this season, I was one of the many calling for his benching. Now, here we are.
MNUFC need defenders. Taylor is a very effective CB when he comes off the bench. He’ll be needed as I am starting to sense a pattern with the players that I have chosen to keep.
Players that should move on
If I would have answered this question at the beginning of the season, there would have been no way Johan Venegas would have made this list. The Costa Rican attacker was one of the few Loons players who was scoring consistently.
But the season has changed, and Venegas’s play has changed. He does not appear to want to be here and certainly has not given his all in his appearances.
He has a lot of talent and his inclusion in his country’s national squad is no surprise when it happens, but he has only shown flashes of that talent with the Loons. With Ramirez up front with little challenge for his spot, Danladi recently showing the talent that him the top overall pick, and newly acquired Ethan Finlay playing close to the level he was early in his career, Venegas has lost his starting position.
This one pains me, but I think it would be the right move.
This has very little to do with talent of contribution. Ibson has been one of the most consistent starters that the team has had this season. His inclusion in this list is simply because of his age. Ibson is 33 years old, and the Loons need some youth in the midfield if it is going to the next steps next season.
Sam Cronin and Ibson have paired to make a very solid center midfield pairing, but going forward, the team needs to think about replacing one of them. Cronin’s leadership is far too valuable to take from the team, so sadly, Ibson would be let go.
Note: This move is one for the future, but if the current scouting trips that Manny Lagos and Amos Magee are on do not yield results in the form of a center midfielder, then Ibson must be kept.
Ibson and now JD. Nostalgically, I would want to keep Justin Davis, but he simply has not shown me that he can be a consistent contributer at the MLS level. While he hasn’t been glaringly bad per se, he has yet to make a noticable contribution in the games that he has appeared.
The argument for keeping someone like Ish or JD is the idea that Ish can play multiple positions. Davis started the year as a fullback with mixed results and has since been moving closer to the center.
Both Davis and Kevin Venegas are depth backline pieces that would not surprise me to see stay around, but they both pieces to this team that could be cut.
What do you think? Do you agree? Should all these players stay? Should all these players go? Let us know below!