The 2022 Major League Soccer season is just days away from beginning with the Loons heading to Chester, PA to face Philadelphia Union on Saturday afternoon. With that start we are all hoping for an even more normal 2022 season coming off a still COVID impacted 2021 soccer season. Minnesota United has had a more lively offseason that their usual quiet, as MNUFC looks to rebound from a down year compared to 2020.
After a series of consecutive playoff appearances for Minnesota, the Loons look to continue to build themselves up for a consistent regular season and another deep run in the MLS Cup Playoffs, similar to 2020.
Minnesota United’s 2021 campaign
Minnesota came into the 2021 season wanting to build on a their most successful MLS season to date where they made the 2020 MLS Western Conference Final, where they lost to Seattle Sounders. In 2021 the Loons would go 13-10-11 (W-D-L) finishing with 49 points and placing fifth in the Western Conference.
MNUFC headed into the playoffs for the third consecutive season and would face Portland Timbers on the road at Providence Park in Portland in the first round of the playoffs. Minnesota’s Franco Fragapane scored the opener in the game in the 11th minute, however the Loons would give up three straight goals en route to a 3-1 playoff loss and first round exit.
Adrian Heath enters his sixth season as head coach of the Loons. Heath is the only coach that Minnesota has had since joining MLS and only the third coach in club history since forming after the dissolution of the Minnesota Thunder. Heath has a 65-35-71 record in his five seasons in Minnesota and a total record of 91-56-102 record as an MLS head coach.
- Luis Amarilla - Forward (DP)
- Kervin Arriaga - Midfielder
- Abu Danladi - Forward
- Ozzie Alonso - Midfielder
- Ethan Finlay - Midfielder
- Ján Greguš - Midfielder
Projected Best XI:
Minnesota’s lineup is probably at this point not as deep as it has been in years past. But at the same time the Starting XI is also probably more pinned down that it ever has been before in club history. With Heath normally going for his preferred 4-2-3-1 it helps pin down the shape MNUFC will more than likely be using, with a 4-3-3 as a secondary look for the side.
With the return of Luis Amarilla to the club, it can be widely assumed that he will resume his spot anchoring the attack for Minnesota. Robin Lod, Franco Fragapane, and Emanuel Reynoso should be able to anchor the midfield with Hassani Dotson and Wil Trapp residing as defensive midfielders.
The back four shouldn’t change too much as Métanire, Boxall, Kallman, and Gasper are the easy pick for the defensive four. The goalkeeper position, at least to start the season will more than likely be taken by Tyler Miller, however this does leave Dayne St. Clair, who was just signed to a new contract, sitting on the bench.
Best Off-Season Move:
The best move that Minnesota made during the off-season was signing Dayne St. Clair to a new contract for three seasons with a one year option. The 24 year old Canadian’s presence on the squad through 2024 and possibly 2025 is easily one of the biggest and most stabalising moves the club could make.
After going through a revolving door of keepers, 2020’s addition of Tyler Miller was big but after he went ended his season early due to injury the Loons ended up turning to Dayne after a few games he didn’t start, all to little success. DSC became a runaway top keeper in Minnesota and the league with his performances and ended up earning him the starting job in 2021 before Miller took over after a bad start to the season.
The new contract took away the fear of Minnesota selling the youngster to a different club this summer, but has created a new fear. Will he play? Dayne has a longer contract than Miller and arguably should be given the opportunity to start, as going with him in goal will not only help DSC but also develop a franchise player for MNUFC.
Reasons to be Worried about Minnesota United:
Depth, the Loons have always struggled with depth since coming into MLS and it has led to some incredibly tough situations in the past. Once the injuries to start to come later in the season, Minnesota could have some huge challenges it has to face. This can be partially solved by the new MNUFC2 team playing in MLS NEXT Pro, however they still don’t have all the pieces in place to really compete over an entire 34 game schedule.
Why Minnesota United is Worth Watching:
Minnesota has done their best at building up a team since 2017, not only are the players good and fun to watch but they can be downright dominating at times. The quest to get to the playoffs should be extremely enjoyable to watch with the XI they will more than likely shell out each week.
Both Dayne St. Clair and Tyler Miller can and do make spectacular saves that can single handily save outright matches with their performance. Those two are some of the most fun and special keepers to watch in the entire league. Robin Lod and Luis Amarilla should easily the lead the team in goals this season. Lod managed 9 goals and 5 assists in just 23 appearances last season. In Amarilla’s lone season with the Loons he scored two goals in just seven games for the club.
Hassani Dotson is probably the single most versatile player on the entire team as he seemingly can play practically every position on the pitch to a very high caliber. Having played defender, midfielder, and forward Dotson truly is a sight to behold and a jack of all trades. The Loons top to bottom on their Matchday 18 are really a 180 degree turn from their 2017 MLS start, something that absolutely should drive fans to see the club even more.