This offseason was very much the offseason that Minnesota United fans craved.
A new DP, a proven defensive midfielder, an international full back, a former MLS Defender of the Year and a goalkeeper with Premier League experience — five players who will very likely be starters as the Loons open Allianz Field in 2019.
When the rookie class is considered as well, the offseason looks even better. Plus, manager Adrian Heath — as per his apparent catchphrase — said one or two more signings could be on the way.
It may have taken to years, but United’s front office got the memo, and they answered it more than adequately.
But still, it feels like the sense of #PANIC won’t go away. With their ability to criticize the front office (something I myself did) taken away, some fans have latched onto the club’’s newest uniform, an admittedly unoriginal white-on-white combination. There will undoubtedly be other minor concerns that are blown out of proportion as the start of the new season nears.
Allow me to bring in a song that is currently making its way across the airwaves:
Yes, the song is about a girl and not in the slightest about soccer or fans, but some would be wise to follow the wise words of advice that come in the chorus:
I know you love her, but it’s over, mate
It doesn’t matter, put the phone away
It’s never easy to walk away, let her go
It’ll be alright
The key message here is that it will be alright. I wouldn’t put my money on United winning MLS Cup, but I certainly would on the Loons making the playoffs. Just think about the possible starting eleven:
Goalkeeper with Premier League experience — left back with national team/World Cup experience, team captain — centerback who was named MLS Defender of the Year — strong, physical centerback with national team experience — right back with national team and Ligue 1 (France) experience — MLS Best XI midfielder known for aggressive style of play — DP midfielder with national team experience and long-range goalscoring ability — speedy winger known for work rate and teamwork — DP known throughout the league (and beyond) for his ability to chip goalkeepers — consistent MLS winger with USMNT caps — DP forward with a physical style and room to grow
Kevin Molino and Romario Ibarra — both regulars for their countries — aren’t even on that list.
When I see the starting eleven laid out like that, I know that it will be alright. More than half of the Western Conference clubs will make the playoffs this season. Assuming everything goes to plan, that lineup will get United there.
Speaking of plans, it seems like that laughable “three-year plan” may actually work out. A well-made team will be playing in a beautiful stadium. Isn’t that what the goal of all this was?
Sure, the past two years have been frustrating. Last offseason was a swing-and-a-miss by the front office. (If you’ll allow me a bigger baseball metaphor here, it was more of a stand-there-and-hope-the-pitcher-throws-four-straight-balls-so-you-don’t-actually-have-to-swing.)
But I’m willing to look past that for this season. Not forget about it, not pretend it never happened, but realize that we have an MLS ready team in Minnesota.
Will the 2019 season be a perfect one? Of course not. Nearly half of the expected starting lineup will be new, meaning a learning curve will almost certainly be present. But should the gains be obvious? Of course.
Most of the improvement is likely to come on the road, like it or not. United was a formidable-enough team at home last year, so frankly, it’s more of a detailing situation here. Regardless of your thoughts on the new away kit, that uniform will surely be forgotten as the Loons rack up points while wearing it.
I may be eating my words here by mid-April, after the Loons have played six of their first seven matches on the road. I’m pretty confident that I won’t though.
There will always be holes to pick at in the club. If you want a negative narrative to spin, you’ll find one. For now, Minnesota United has given us exactly what we want.
It’s time to trade the #PANIC for some hype. Ignore the kits, and whatever other grievances you have. Think about what can happen this year.
It’ll be alright.