Minnesota United’s final games of the 2018 season are upon us, and they’re going to be just as anticlimactic as we dreaded.
Some of the opponents — like New York City FC and the LA Galaxy, in a match with more than 45,000 tickets already sold — will make for interesting games, but nonetheless, the upcoming stretch feels rather pointless.
That said, there is still plenty for us to learn about this Loons team yet in 2018, especially as the club finalizes its first competitive roster in the run-up to next season.
Here are the three biggest questions:
What do we have at forward?
The easy answer: not Christian Ramirez. But the three current options — Angelo Rodriguez, Abu Danladi and Mason Toye — are all questions in and of themselves. Rodriguez, the club’s second-ever designated player, has scored only one goal so far and hasn’t done much to prove himself or show that he’s settled in. Danladi has been struggling nearly constantly with injury issues, one of the concerns about him dating back to college. We don’t really know what United has in Toye simply because he’s still new and raw. Some time in the USL will hopefully remedy that.
And then there’s the fork in this whole equation atop the formation: Romario Ibarra. Initially thought to be a winger, he’s now gotten a couple of looks at striker and looked good, like two goals in the first half against the Portland Timbers good. That said, he picked up an injury scoring the second against the Timbers, so he might not be the answer for the rest of this year.
The club shouldn’t have to bring in any forwards this offseason. But there’s still plenty for the current crop to prove in the remainder of the season.
Who will be the No. 6?
Debates of their quality aside, United has an abundance of players who can slot in as a defensive midfielder. The all-Brazilian combo of Fernando Bob and Maximiano has been the most recent choice, but they’ll both miss the next game against NYCFC due to suspensions (for a red card and yellow card accumulation, respectively). Bob is still very new to the Loons, though he’s looked good when not elbowing the opposition in the neck. Maximiano has had an up-and-down year, moments of decency followed by too many yellow cards and a knee injury. Ibson has been a consistent figure in the lineup all year, bringing fiery energy to the midfield. Rasmus Schuller has also been vastly improved this year. On the fringe of the midfield situation lies Collen Warner. A valued part of the locker room, he’s never gotten much of a shot with United.
The better question for all of these midfielders might be “Who will be here next season?”
Ibson is aging, and the younger competition will be hard to keep up with. There are already doubters of his ability in the fan base this year. Warner can’t be expected to hang around for leftovers forever, as he could compete for a starting spot with some other teams. Maximiano is here on loan, a deal that would need to be extended should he, his parent club Fluminese and United all feel it to be valuable. That leaves Schuller and Bob.
(It’s hard to imagine Sam Cronin, who has missed the entire season with an injury due to repeated concussions, coming back to play soccer next year.)
Who will be the starting fullbacks?
Minnesota’s injury-plagued outside defenders have been dipping in and out of the lineup all season long. Jérôme Thiesson’s impeccable attendance last year has not been replicated, Tyrone Mears spent time on the injury report and was released to join West Bromwich Albion in England, Marc Burch has been in and out of the match day squad and Carter Manley couldn’t prove himself and is now on loan. Francisco Calvo has played fullback — not his preferred role — as have Miguel Ibarra, Alexi Gomez and Michael Boxall.
There will have to be some additions to this area of the field, at the least, some sturdier ones.
Thoughts on the last stretch of United’s season? Let us know in the comments section below!