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Minnesota United wraps up first week of preseason, prepares to travel south

We popped in on the team’s last training session in Minnesota to get the scoop on things.

MLS: Minnesota United FC at Seattle Sounders FC Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

The Loons are amping up to the start of the 2018 MLS season, but not before they close things down—at least to the media.

The team practiced behind closed doors at their new indoor training facility on Saturday to close out the first week of the preseason.

Speaking of the new facility, it’s pretty nice. The field is made of top-quality artificial turf that is designed to feel like natural grass, and comes close to meeting that standard. The facility will also be used by the National Sports Center’s other guests, like local youth soccer clubs.

Just keep running

The start of preseason is infamous to players for one reason: running. Minnesota United players certainly did their fair share of it during the first week of training. “There was a lot of running, a lot of training,” points out rookie Carter Manley.

Fellow rookie Xavier Gomez agrees. “You come in a little nervous, expecting it’s going to be tough, and it was tough.”

MLS: Combine Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Players were given offseason training regimens to go through, but that doesn’t always make the first week any better. Of course, once the Loons take the field for their first preseason game a week from Saturday, it’ll all be worth it.

Finding a spot

All four of Minnesota’s draft picks were at training on Saturday, and we caught up with three of them.

The rookies have been impressed with what they’ve seen so far. “I think the program and the organization allow you to be as comfortable as you can be for the next level,” remarks Gomez. “Everyone’s great here, it’s been an easy adaption. I’m really happy I’m here.”

Omsberg feels he has done well so far in camp. “For me it’s just about getting a little bit better every single day and trying to improve in any way I can. I think I’ve been doing that so far, and hopefully I can keep on going with that,” he explains. “It’s been a really high level but the coaches have been really good, giving us nice little pointers to help us out, and the players the same.”

For Manley, it just feels good to be with a familiar team. He trained with the club for a stint over the summer. “I was really happy [when I found out I was coming to Minnesota],” he says. “I’d been here during the summer and I liked it a lot so I was just happy that I was coming back.”

MLS: MLS Super Draft Derik Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

All of United’s draft picks will have to fight it out for playing time this season. “I’ll be trying to get some time in and after that, keep building on and on. Get more minutes, maybe get a goal or an assist, stuff like that,” says Gomez.

Omsberg shares a similar mentality. “I want to try and get on the field as much as I can. At the end of the day, as a rookie, becoming the best player you can be is important.”

Manley knows it’s important to make his time count. “I jut say to develop as much as possible. I know it’s hard for a rookie to get a lot of playing time, so I just want to take my chances when I get them. I’ll try to improve and help the team whatever way I can.”

All wingers on deck

It’s a pretty well known fact that there are a lot of wingers on Minnesota’s roster. There are currently six “obvious” wingers on the team, plus others who will be competing for spots in the same area. One of the true wingers is Sam Nicholson, who was brought in from Scottish side Hearts of Midlothian midway through last season. He had to fight for playing time then, and certainly will now.

“It depends on how I perform,” he explains. “Of course it’s going to be hard.”

MLS: Philadelphia Union at Minnesota United FC Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

At least this year he has more of a level playing field. “I came over last season totally unfit because my season had ended in Scotland and I had a few months off,” he says. “It’s good to start off fresh. Hopefully I’ll get more chances to be more effective and help the team out by doing more than last season.

Roll call

Striker Chrisitan Ramirez is still with the United States Mens’ National Team as they prepare for a friendly against Bosnia and Herzegovina tomorrow evening.

New signee Frantz Pangop remains on international duty with Cameroon.

The team has yet to announce their additional signing from Cameroon, but are expected to do so soon.