Minnesota United announced the signing of Finnish fullback Jukka Raitala on Thursday, Jan. 28.
The Loons acquired Raitala in a trade with CF Montreal. Minnesota exchanged the rights of its 2020 SuperDraft fourth-round pick Andrew Booth, a midfielder who did not make the team a year ago, for the MLS rights to Raitala. Raitala was out of contract in Montreal and signed a new deal with Minnesota.
The primarily left-sided defender will take an international spot on Minnesota’s roster and can provide competition to incumbent starter Chase Gasper. After lacking backups last year, the Loons also drafted Georgetown fullback Sean O’Hearn in the second round of the MLS SuperDraft last week.
“We are adding an incredibly valuable player,” Loons manager Adrian Heath said in a statement. “… We know what to expect from him from day one here in Minnesota. He’s an experienced defender who will continue to uplift our roster and provide competition at our fullback spot. I’ve always said the best thing for players is competition, and we have no doubt he will come here expecting to play and elevate our club and community.”
Raitala, 32, has spend the past three seasons playing for CF Montreal, including 1,350 minutes in 15 games in 2020. Last season, he served as captain of the then-named Impact. The journeyman played one season for the Columbus Crew in 2017 and has been with eight other clubs across seven leagues in Europe since turning pro at age 18 in 2007.
Raitala has made more than 50 appearances for the Finland’s national team since 2012. He has a fellow national team member in Loons winger Robin Lod.
Finland is set to play in the European Championships this summer, with their group-stage games from June 12-21 and potential knockout games afterward. Minnesota midfielder Jan Gregus and Slovakia also will be in the tournament that runs through July 11.