Minnesota United has finally done it. They’ve signed a no. 6.
After months of not-so-patient asking from fans and pundits alike, the front office shored up the Loons’ defensive midfield with the arrival of Brazilian Fernando Bob.
Bob himself will be an interesting player to watch, at least in terms of how his time with United turns out.
He’s not exactly the DP-level, automatically great holding midfielder that some have asked for. But he’s not not that either.
Instead, Bob is a question mark, and a potential barometer for moves to come.
Free agency — the process by which an unattached or out-of-contract player can sign with any team of his choosing — is a uncommon in soccer, relative to it being a norm in other American sports. The expectation in soccer is for player moves to involve blockbuster transfer fees and club-to-club negotiations.
There is something of a stigma surrounding free agent players in soccer, which is occasionally valid.
Why did their contract run out? Clubs are generally proactive about renewing the contracts of valuable players or selling the player in order to receive some sort of fee instead of releasing the player “on a free.” It’s usually undesirable for a free agent situation to arise.
There’s another side effect that comes into play with Bob specifically. Bob hasn’t played a competitive match in nine months. No matter what level of fitness a player is able to maintain independently, they cannot replicate the intensity of regular matches.
We now see the initial causes for concern with the Bob signing. With those said, there are still positives.
Bob’s experience in Brazil’s Serie A will surely be valuable and his nationality should provide easier chemistry and acclimation as he works alongside countrymen Ibson and Maximiano in the midfield.
His highlight reel shows the defensive midfielder that United so desperately needs, so Bob should fill a gap.
If Bob plays well, the move will obviously be a good one. If he doesn’t, a free agent signing is low-risk enough to minimize any loss.
But Bob won’t be able to do much for the Loons this year as he regains fitness and fits into a new system. Luckily he was able to get a jump start by training with the club last week, but the process still takes time.
This move further points to an emphasis on the opening of Allianz Field next year and a continued lack of interest in making the 2018 playoffs.
The red line looms ever-ahead of Minnesota United. It’s not coming any closer.
It’s become increasingly clear that next year is when United will really enter MLS and field a competitive side. We’ll catch glimpses of what that side might look like in the remaining 2018 matches, but the final connection will come too late.
That’s not to say that the players and coaches don’t want to make the playoffs — they certainly do — but that they are not necessarily equipped to do so. We can hope that Bob fits in well, gets some good looks in the starting lineup and is able to pass expertise on to teammates.
Purely to speculate, if a young no. 6 were to be on the way for next season, Bob could be a great midfield partner to learn from. The move makes sense for the future and sets the Loons up well to compete next season.