Loons expect to add several new players for second MLS season
ST. PAUL—The number of additions and subtractions from Minnesota United's roster this offseason could extend into double digits, but their margin for error is minimal.
United Sporting Director Manny Lagos, coach Adrian Heath and the rest of their staff are currently determining the amount of departures and will work to make a few deals to bring in other players from within Major League Soccer, and more of the acquisitions are expected to come through signings on the international market.
As an MLS expansion franchise, Minnesota (10-18-6) finished ninth in the 11-team Western Conference and missed the playoffs by 10 points. Improvement in its second season is the main objective.
"We have to make sure that this next four, five, six, seven (additions), however many players it is — we can't afford to miss on many of them," Heath said.
Lagos pinpointed priorities by position, with character as an important attribute.
"I think to add a couple more offensive players that have a little more influence in the game that can control the tempo of the game for the team is going to be important," Lagos said. "After that, I think you could talk about depth in center midfielders and wide positions."
Heath will set out to South America and then to Europe, in particular France, Spain and Belgium, to scout and court potential signings. Assistant coach Ian Fuller is headed for a repeat visit to Africa.
"Certain markets that you think are up and coming and there are good players coming out of there," Heath said of their strategy. "Then there are players that we have identified, we've seen and this is getting a lot closer to making the final decision."
The comings and goings on the roster could develop in November, if not sooner, and run through when the Loons return for preseason camp Jan. 23 in Blaine. They will spend part of their preseason in Florida and South Carolina before their second MLS season begins in March.
"I think we have a good nucleus to work from," Heath said. "We have five, six core pieces that we are really pleased with."
In addition to role players and players the club feels have untapped contributions, United had success in trading for veteran MLS players such as Kevin Molino, Ethan Finlay and Sam Cronin, who missed the season's last nine games with head and neck injuries.
"He feels a lot better," Heath said of Cronin. "We just feel as though when it was pretty apparent that we weren't going to make the playoffs, we made a conscious decision of giving him more time, giving him the offseason to, hopefully, when he comes back to be flying and on all cylinders."
From their Scandinavian signings before the first season, Rasmus Schuller is expected to return to Minnesota after finishing 2016 on a loan to a club in Finland. Top-price player Vadim Demidov of Norway, who cost United $550,000, won't be back. After playing only three games in March, he left the club in July and is currently training in Europe.
"Both sides are kind of looking at next steps," Lagos said. "... It's up to us to really navigate with him how we kind of figure out where his environment's going to be. But it won't be here."
For newcomers, United could spend much more money than Demidov's salary on a "Designated Player," the highest-priced pieces, but they also will be looking to strike on variety, from mid-level veterans or young potential talent.