Minnesota joins fight to show the Red Card to Racism

Bridget McDowell - Minnesota United FC/mlsfemale
Official Minnesota United FC Reporter

By Bridget McDowell // @BCMcDowell

If you have spent any time at all on soccer Twitter over the last two weeks, you have most likely seen the story about the Idaho youth soccer coach who discovered a letter on the windshield of his vehicle threatening him over his involvement with the Idaho Juniors Futbol Club which serves a large immigrant population. If you haven’t, you can read the Idaho Statesman’s January 25 report here.

The internet responded to the report instantaneously. More than $6,000 has been raised through a GoFundMe page organized by the club to support anti-racism charities. Even pro players and prominent members of the soccer community have spoken out on social media in support of the club and against racism in general.

Just this Wednesday, USSF presidential candidate Kyle Martino appealed to current and former players to join him for a game in support of Idaho Youth Soccer. Kei Kamara and Mia Hamm, among others, have already answered the call.

Meanwhile, I and some of my fellow Minnesota soccer supporters have launched a fundraiser and awareness campaign to bring Jeromy Tarkon‘s team north in July.

One of the world’s largest celebrations of youth soccer takes place right here, in Minnesota United FC‘s own backyard. Literally.

The Schwann’s USA CUP takes place each summer at the National Sports Center in Blaine. NSC is home to MNUFC’s newly redesigned training facilities and its main stadium played host to MNUFC’s home games in the NASL days (and hosted United’s predecessors, the Thunder and Stars). In 2016, the tournament drew a record 1,176 teams from 19 countries and 19 US states.

The USA CUP is the perfect setting for our fundraising initiative, Red Card to Racism. We hope to raise $24,000 to bring sixteen U-11 players IJFC to the tournament along with three coaches and two chaperones. We want the kids of Idaho Juniors FC, and their counterparts throughout youth soccer, to know that for every one person against them, there are many more of us supporting them, who are ready to show a red card to racism.

This game we love, the World’s Game, would be nothing without the contributions of all the nations and cultures which have celebrated it, cultivated it. This diversity is what makes the game beautiful. So let’s use it to teach others how to celebrate our differences and unite around our similarities.

You can learn more about the fundraiser and ways to give on our YouCaring site.

You can also find Red Card to Racism on Facebook and Twitter, @redcardtoracism.

Featured image courtesy: @redcardtoracism

Follow and chat with me on twitter // @BCMcDowell

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The first steps of the USMNT in 2018

Michelle Huitink - LA Galaxy/mlsfemale
USMNT Key Contributor

By Michelle Huitink // @AdorableEars

International Friendly: 0-0 Draw

I was there at StubHub Center Sunday evening, January 28, 2018. I say this proudly. I paid extra to be on the sidelines during warm-ups. I watched this game live from what turned out to be a Bosnia and Herzegovina fan section and it was frustrating. I ended up moving to another section at the half.  Stay with me.

Having been there, it felt almost pointless to rewatch and analyze from my DVR at home, to critique a set of players that we may not see play together again. But, as a USMNT fan, I feel I owe it to my team (because I love and believe in them and want to see them qualify for the 2022 World Cup) to do them justice and properly share my perspective.

I’ll share my findings now. There are plenty of critics and blind followers out there, I am not one of them. You with me? Here we go.

For starters, I must say, I think it’s important this game ended in a draw. If we would have won, I think we would be too comfortable.  This is still a reflection of the upset of our not qualifying for the 2018 World Cup; we have a lot to work on still and we have the time to do it now. In addition, we have an interim coach (Sarachan), meaning we don’t have a set coach, so the problems we are seeing are because we don’t have a system.

Michelle Huitink - USMNT/mlsfemale

As to be expected in a first game of the year and the first game out of January camp, there were a lot of changes. We played differently in each half due to adjustments that had to be made with the changes. This was a first time team, too, for the most part.

I’ll admit, it was sloppy at times. But, this is what change and growth look like. These factors are not excuses, but they are reasons for why we need to keep a level head and keep realistic expectations for the future of USMNT soccer.  Let’s keep moving forward as we take a look back at this game.

Here’s a recap of the Starting XI in the 4-1-4-1 formation:

1-GK Bill Hamid

2-D Justin Morrow

3-D Ike Opara

21-D Walker Zimmerman

15-D Matt Polster

6-M Wil Trapp (Captain)

9- M Gyasi Zardes

4- M Tyler Adams

8- M Cristian Roldan

13-M Jordan Morris

17- F CJ Sapong

The defense was good in the first half, but the team did not seem connected at times. The exception to this was Roldan and Morris in certain moments where they found clear opportunities and took chances to score. Perhaps this is because they’re best friends, but they’ve definitely been playing together on the Seattle Sounders for two seasons, and I think their chemistry–the fact they know how the other plays– is key to how the USMNT as a whole can sync up.

In the first half, we were attacking more, both teams were equal in fouls, but we didn’t make good decisions in the end.

Overall, we played passively.  When we had the ball, we tried to put some pressure, but our strategy was not developed or fast enough. We couldn’t build a rhythm or momentum. Sometimes, the USMNT seemed unsure of what to do once they had the ball whether due to inexperience on the part of the young players or the players didn’t know each other well enough, which is normal considering they only played together for three weeks.  As a result, the game was slow. Sometimes it would be fifteen minutes before another chance to score showed itself.

One of the few highlights of the evening involved Jordan Morris.  In the 22nd minute, Morris took on a BIH defender, that was the kind of tactic we needed from other players. Morris faced players head on, which is what other players except Roldan and Trapp were missing.

He was a mid, a winger and a striker at times.  It should also be noted, this was the first full 90 minutes he’d played since his hamstring injury back on September 10, 2017 (I was at that game too).

The first three changes in players at the half were good: Zack Steffen replaced Bill Hamid, Kelyn Rowe took Sapong’s place and Gyasi Zardes was not as effective this time, so it was better they put in Paul Arriola.

At the second half, the formation was changed to the common 4-4-2.  Morris and Roldan were the forwards.  Trapp made a good pass, creating a chance for Morris in the 50th minute. Morris had good control of the ball, reflected his experience, but he just couldn’t make it in the net. This opportunity coupled with Trapp’s good communication to try to bring the team together on the pitch, made him an excellent choice for captain.

The other highlight of the evening was Cristian Roldan.  He made so much effort to try to make goals happen.  He was an 8, but he played as a 9 and in the 22nd minute when Morris faced a BIH defender, he jumped in and tried to score, playing like a 10 when Sapong didn’t make the move. Roldan was not afraid to take risks and get in as needed to make plays happen. He took more responsibility as a mid forward.

After Roldan and Trapp were subbed (68th and 83rd minute respectively), the pressure had deflated.  BIH started to have the ball and had more chances.  We needed more control of the ball. There was too much of a gap between Morris and the midfield and he looked like a 9 position in the last minutes after Roldan left. The team started to disconnect with the changes.

Final takeaways:

We had seven corners throughout the game and didn’t take advantage of them.

We are still looking for a keeper. While Hamid was able to make a save in the 42nd minute after his bad pass to redeem himself, Steffan did his job, but that’s all.

In Opara, I feel we gained a defense, which is where we build from.

In the end, we earned the criticism we’ll continue to get.  But, there’s still that pride and enthusiasm to represent our country.  Now, we’ll have to see who will be part of the group moving forward.

Image courtesy: Michelle Huitink

Follow and chat with me on twitter // @AdorableEars

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Two European attackers added to NYCFC’s roster

Keira Smith - NYCFC/mlsfemale
Official NYCFC Reporter

By Keira Smith // @keiramunsmith

A lot of focus in the last few weeks in the New York City FC realm has been on both the MLS SuperDraft and on “Jack Harrison Watch”.  While all of this was going on, until today, the club has been active with signing new players. 

From the Austrian Bundesliga, we brought on goal scorer Ismael Tajouri.  Tajouri comes in as a possible wing or attacking midfielder from Austria Wien, the 24-time Austrian champions.  Tajouri is a truly international player having been born in Switzerland, moved to Austria when he was 9 and rose through Austria Wien’s youth program. 

He was loaned to SC Rheindorf Altach for two years where he helped the team achieve promotion to Austria’s First Division.  Austria Wien brought him back where he scored 10 goals in 36 appearances.  In the meantime, he also played on the U-20 team for Libya, his parents’ birth country. 

Clearly, his attacking skills and mindset (he was directly involved in more shots on goals than any other player in Austria’s Bundesliga last season), made him an attractive addition to NYCFC as we hope for more finishing up top.  Head coach Patrick Vieira also noted that Tajouri brings power, pace, good 1 vs 1 skills on offense and a really good work ethic.  Sporting director Claudio Reyna added that Tajouri has a lot of experience for his age. 

Another addition from Europe to hopefully take some of the goal scoring pressure off David Villa is Norwegian striker Jo Inge Berget.  Berget concluded a three-year contract with Swedish champions Malmö FF where he scored 25 goals in 77 appearances.  He was in talks to join Orlando City FC earlier this fall but may have been enticed to join NYCFC by the chance to play with his former Malmö teammate, defender Anton Tinnerholm

Coincidence that we have two Malmö players?  Probably not. Vieira seems to have a pattern of bringing in pockets of players from the same country, team or culture, presumably to accelerate the formation of the all-important, yet intangible chemistry.  Vieira spoke highly of Berget’s versatility, competitiveness, winning mentality and, of course, work ethic.  Reyna agreed with these strengths and added that Berget brings stature, (he is over 6 feet tall), to NYCFC’s attacking areas.

Berget started his footballing career in Norway, first at Lyn Toppfotball before being sold to top division team and three-time league champions Molde Fotballklubb.  In Berget’s team debut for Molde, he scored a championship-deciding goal against Tromso.

After spending three years with Molde and scoring 17 goals in 63 appearances, he followed his manager across the channel to Cardiff City and then was on brief loan to Celtic before signing onto the three-year deal in January 2015 with Malmö.  Berget also played internationally for Norway, first for their U-21 team. 

Expectations are high that both Tajouri and Berget will add depth, power, speed, and goals to NYCFC’s attack.

Follow and chat with me on twitter // @keiramunsmith

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The Promise of USMNT Soccer

Michelle Huitink - LA Galaxy/mlsfemale
USMNT Key Contributor

By Michelle Huitink // @AdorableEars

You say you want a revolution?

Well, we are getting one.

We’ve got four internationally experienced players on the team, but the roster as a whole is new.

Take a look:

U.S. ROSTER BY POSITION (Club; Caps/Goals)

GOALKEEPERS (4): Alex Bono (Toronto FC/CAN; 0/0), Bill Hamid (Midtjylland/DEN; 4/0), Cody Cropper (New England Revolution; 0/0), Zack Steffen (Columbus Crew SC; 0/0)

DEFENDERS (9): Danny Acosta (Real Salt Lake; 0/0), Justen Glad (Real Salt Lake; 0/0), Nick Lima (San Jose Earthquakes; 0/0), Justin Morrow (Toronto FC/CAN; 3/0), Ike Opara (Sporting Kansas City; 0/0), Tim Parker (Vancouver Whitecaps FC/CAN; 0/0), Matt Polster (Chicago Fire; 0/0), Brandon Vincent (Chicago Fire; 1/0), Walker Zimmerman (Los Angeles Football Club; 1/0)

MIDFIELDERS (11): Tyler Adams (New York Red Bulls; 1/0), Paul Arriola (D.C. United; 15/2), Russell Canouse (D.C. United; 0/0), Marky Delgado (Toronto FC/CAN; 0/0), Marlon Hairston (Colorado Rapids; 0/0), Ian Harkes (D.C. United; 0/0), Brooks Lennon (Real Salt Lake; 0/0), Cristian Roldan (Seattle Sounders FC; 1/0), Kelyn Rowe (New England Revolution; 3/1), Wil Trapp (Columbus Crew SC; 2/0), Gyasi Zardes (LA Galaxy; 37/6)

FORWARDS (6): Juan Agudelo (New England Revolution; 27/3), Dom Dwyer (Orlando City SC; 4/2), Jordan Morris (Seattle Sounders FC; 24/5), Christian Ramirez (Minnesota United FC; 0/0), Rubio Rubin (Unattached; 4/0), CJ Sapong (Philadelphia Union; 3/0).

Michelle Huitink - USMNT/mlsfemale

The USMNT didn’t qualify for the 2018 Cup.

I hear ya.

I feel the pain (understatement, I know).

It’s not a reality we want to accept, but let’s press forward.

This is how real change is made. It’s slow, messy, and arduous to say the least. I trust in the process.

I’ve been calling for the team to have younger players for some time. I love Howard, Dempsey, Beasley and all the guys, but they’ve had their time and they’ve set a bar.

During USMNT warmups on Monday, January 22, in Carson, CA, I spoke with press officer Michael Kammarman who has a background in soccer research. The roster consists of all MLS players and according to Kammarman, it’s not unusual considering it’s the MLS offseason. As the start of a new cycle, he said they have a “refreshing staff” with players “eager to make a good impression”. They want to be national players and are getting an extended look in front of the national team staff. They see it as an opportunity and are hopeful.

I also decided to ask him what he thought of the relationship between the fans and the USMNT. He said fans need to be “realistic” in their expectations and that the USMNT isn’t the only country to have a setback and not qualify for the World Cup.

Standing beside us was longtime soccer columnist for the Southern California Newspaper Group Nick Green, who contributed to the conversation as we went over World Cup trivia. It is a national mourning when your country doesn’t qualify, he said, recalling when England didn’t qualify in the past.

That’s what’s important to remember, only eight countries have ever won the international competition. The USMNT just want to show that we are capable of competing in the World Cup.

Still, I think this is a real chance for the USMNT. It’s a fresh start.

Michelle Huitink - USMNT/mlsfemale

I was given the opportunity to speak with Jordan Morris after morning practice and he graciously answered my questions about their performance and the fanbase ahead of the January 28th match vs Bosnia and Herzegovina.

MH: How do you feel is the chemistry with this new team?

JM: It’s great, I think. It’s a lot of guys coming in that are hungry and their first camp and trying to come in and show themselves. And I think everyone’s done a really good job, coming together well, so hopefully, we can get a [winning] result.

MH: Some consider the fanbase kind of fractured with the US team. Maybe it’s a little bit harsh, maybe it’s just we have really high expectations, but what message do you have for the fans or how do you think we can make it better between the USMNT and the fans?

JM: Our message would just be we really appreciate all their support always and we know how disappointing it is, but we are gonna push forward and move forward and keep rebuilding and looking to the future. There’s a lot of exciting things to come so our message would be just thank you for all the continued support.

I couldn’t agree with him more. I’m writing this because I want the US fans to continue to believe in the USMNT.  My concern is regaining optimism and support in the fanbase and growing soccer in this country.  Of course, only time will tell and we’ll have to see what the future holds, but that’s the beauty in all of this and this game. Let’s not throw out the proverbial baby with the bathwater. I’ve supported this team for over a decade and I’m not stopping now.

The USMNT of 2018 is carrying the weight of the loss, but it’s still an honor to be called to camp and be able to play representing this country.  The team is very much alive and they’re here to prove we can compete internationally. We are looking forward to seeing how they can do this with the experience of Jordan Morris, Gyasi Zardes, Juan Agudelo, and Paul Arriola leading the new team with new energy.  We are living history, and witnessing the new faces of the USMNT.

Watch and support the USMNT vs Bosnia and Herzegovina on Jan. 28 at StubHub Center (6:30 p.m. PT; FS1, UniMas & UDN). Tickets and upgrades are available now!

Images courtesy: Michelle Huitink

Follow and chat with me on twitter // @AdorableEars

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Bring on 2018 for Atlanta United!

Robyn Saghini - Atlanta United FC/mlsfemale
Official Atlanta United Reporter

By Robyn Saghini // @robynsaghini

We’re back for more!

Atlanta United made history a few times last year and as the 2018 preseason starts, it looks like they’re on track to do it all over again.

It has been a busy offseason for the Atlanta front office:

In December, a potential record amount of allocation money was traded to the Portland Timbers for midfielder Darlington Nagbe and defender Gbenga Arokyo. They also picked up the now infamous FC Cincinnati goalie Mitch Hildebrandt, (another) Argentinian defender Franco Escobar and Venezuelan defender Jose Hernandez.

In January, after what seemed like never-ending negotiations, Atlanta United also signed promising young Argentine midfielder Ezequiel Barco. Rumors about Barco’s imminent signing started back in November (possibly earlier – it all started to run together after a while) and the BarcoWatch hashtag really started to fire up around mid-December. Check out Doug Roberson’s timeline on the deal for the full timeline.

ATLUTD also acquired three young new players in the MLS SuperDraft earlier this month. All of whom are internationals and most likely to be loaned out to the USL team for the majority of the season in order to keep the international spots open for the first team.

Sadly, there were a few players that did not get re-signed to ATLUTD’s roster this year. Harrison Heath and Tyrone Mears went to MNUFC. It was just announced this week that Jacob Peterson has been waived and Carlos Carmona was sold to Chilean team, Colo Colo.

A few options were not exercised on other contacts, but the news that makes me saddest is that Yamil Asad is almost definitely (I’m still holding out a tiny bit of hope) not coming back to Atlanta this year. His loan from Velez Sarsfield was only for 2017 and according to Sam Stejskal, negotiations to get Asad here full time fell through. #sadz

ATLUTD is playing their first preseason game in Nashville on February 10. I am unfortunately going to miss watching that one in person, but the following weekend is the beginning of the Carolina Challenge Cup in Charleston, SC and I will be there for all of the games this year! Vamos, ATL!

Featured image courtesy: atlutd.com

Follow and chat with me on twitter // @robynsaghini

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IN TRUE LA GALAXY FASHION #SINCE96

Michelle Huitink - LA Galaxy/mlsfemale
Official LA Galaxy Reporter

By Michelle Huitink // @AdorableEars

January 21, 2018

This was a first for me. I know Los Angeles is seen as the city where dreams come true and where anything can happen, but when I submitted my intro article to MLSFemale, I wouldn’t have imagined it would get me in so fast and interviews with players at that!

Thanks to Allison Sorrell for getting me into the exclusive LA Galaxy launch party that was available to STM. I was dropped right in.

Flashy. That’s what some think of us here in LA. This party certainly was. It took place at The Novo at L.A. Live, right in the heart of downtown near the Staples Center and The Grammy Museum. The venue had a club vibe with a full bar and DJ. It was meant for all ages. Fans hanging around with the trophies and playing some FIFA 93, 2012 and 2018 on Xbox.

I and a few other media in attendance were allowed to speak with Ola Kamara first. I asked, “What attitude and expectations are you coming into the 2018 season with?” He made eye contact with me as he responded, “Of course, I want to keep scoring goals, that’s what I love. Hopefully, I can keep doing that for Galaxy, too. I think [LA] had a difficult season last year and I hope I can be an addition to the team that can help us into the playoffs.” His eyes sparkled and he flashed a winning smile. He’s the projected 11 for the team and has a healthy number of goals under his belt, so I have all the faith he will fulfill his role. 

Then, it was time for the reveal.

Michelle Huitink - LA Galaxy/mlsfemale

Linda Pickle -the Galaxian long-time fan- along with up and coming soccer girls and Los Dos represented the jerseys the team has sported since 1996. It was fantastic to see beloved classics on stage: Cobi Jones, Mike Magee, Alexi Lalas, Kevin Hartman, Cienfuegos, and Carlos “Pescadito” Ruiz. Gold and blue confetti and smoke machines went off a few times. Our new LA Galaxy team was presented to us.

Sebastian Lletget, who mingled with fans till the end of the party, adorned the new uniform for the media. I asked him how he liked the new jersey and he said “Fantastic! I’m looking forward to scoring lots of goals in it and the fans like it.”  As he stood back after speaking with us, we took pictures. I called out to him: “looking good!” He appreciated that, saying, “that’s what I wanted to hear!” He gave a shaka sign angled like he was also giving a thumbs up.

Michelle Huitink - LA Galaxy/mlsfemale

I was already excited for the 2018 season as the official reporter, but I’m even more hyped after meeting these guys and seeing the new kits in person! Their enthusiasm and optimism really shone. I can proudly say, I am officially a season ticket member after this event.

Images courtesy: Michelle Huitink

Follow and chat with me on twitter // @AdorableEars

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Soccer Training

Soccer is perhaps the most demanding of all sports.

In the modern game (at any level) soccer training and conditioning is essential.

Few sports are played on as large a playing field, lasting as long and without regular rest periods.

Players cover 8-12km during a match, consisting of 24% walking, 36% jogging, 20% coursing, 11% sprinting, 7% moving backward and 2% moving whilst in possession of the ball (1).

Soccer players possess excellent endurance with VO2max reported to range between 55 and 70 ml/kg/min in elite performers (2,3). The game is played at an average intensity close to the lactate threshold – approximately 80-90% of maximum heart rate (4,5).

How important is the correct type of endurance training in soccer?

Read the entire article here

Orlando City’s 2018 Roster Changes

Shae Beaudoin - Orlando City/mlsfemale
Official Orlando City Reporter

By Shae Beaudoin // @ShaeEliz

A lot’s gone down in the past few weeks. Clubs started making trades and signings and Orlando City SC remained strangely quiet until about mid-December. Ending 2017 with about 11 players out of contract and our captain retiring, we were all left wondering and waiting to find out who would fill in the gaps.

Here’s who we’ve kept, who we’ve lost, and who we’ve brought in.

Who We Kept

GK – Joe Bendik

GK – Mason Stajduhar

GK – Earl Edwards Jr

D – Scott Sutter

D – Jonathan Spector

D – José Aja

D – Donny Toia

D – Victor PC

M – Will Johnson

M – Yoshimar Yotún

M – Richie Laryea

M – Pierre Da Silva

M – Tony Rocha

M – Christian Higuita

F – Dom Dwyer

F – Cyle Larin

2017 – Out

GK – Josh Saunders

D – Seb Hines

D – Conor Donovan

D – Kevin Alston

D – Devron García

D – Tommy Redding (traded to RBNY)

D – Rafael Ramos (traded to Chicago Fire)

M – Ricardo Kaka (retired)

M – Antonio Nocerino

M – Servando Carrasco (contract expired, picked up by LA Galaxy)

F – Giles Barnes (free agent, signed by Club Leon FC)

F – Hadji Barry

F – Carlos Rivas (traded to RBNY)

2018 – In

GK – Adam Grinwis

D – RJ Allen (traded from NYCFC for third round draft pick)

D – Mohamed El-Munir

M – Dillon Powers (initially out of contract, later re-signed)

M – Sacha Kljestan (traded from RBNY)

M – José Villarreal (traded from LA Galaxy for third round draft pick)

M – Josué Colman

M – Cam Lindley (traded from Chicago Fire)

F – Stéfano Pinho (traded from Miami FC)

F – Chris Mueller (2018 SuperDraft pick)

Currently, it’s looking like head coach Jason Kreis is going for a complete midfield makeover. There’s speculation that Kreis may be switching things up to a 4-4-2 formation, which seemed to work for him back in his Real Salt Lake days. With Spector and Toia on the backline, or Spector and Aja, I can see this working out, but I’m also pretty nervous about only having two on the defensive line.

If we are working on a 4-4-2, I expect a few more forwards to join our ranks before the season start, especially if we lose Larin. Time will tell.

Orlando City plays their 2018 home opener against DC United on March 3rd.

Featured image of Jason Kreis on Day One courtesy: @OrlandoCitySC

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MNUFC SuperDraft Report

Bridget McDowell - Minnesota United FC/mlsfemale
Official Minnesota United FC Reporter

By Bridget McDowell // @BCMcDowell

This team is full of surprises. I was expecting to get maybe a paragraph or two out of the draft day, but Minnesota United FC was making up for lost time. Here is my update:

The north is slightly less restless. In fact, following the early-and-often negotiation tactics of coach Adrian Heath, Sporting Director Manny Lagos and Director of Player Personnel Amos Magee, was like taking a crash course in Advanced Player Acquisition. My head is still spinning, but here’s where we stand.

United first traded their 5th pick to Chicago Fire for $75,000 GAM, $100,000 TAM, the 15th pick and a player to be named later in the day. That lucky Fire player (I hope he feels that way) was goalkeeper Matt Lampson. With 24 starts in 2017, Lampson adds depth and experience to the position behind current starter Bobby Shuttleworth.

The club then acquired the 7th pick from Montreal Impact, in exchange for $150,000 in TAM, and selected forward Mason Toye. The Generation Adidas player out of Indiana University was named Big Ten Freshman of the Year in 2017. United already has two solid strikers in Christian Ramirez and Abu Danladi (the club’s first ever draft pick), but Toye can play backup to Danladi when Ramirez is on international duty and affords the flexibility to play a two-striker formation.

With the 15th pick, United selected defender Wyatt Omsberg out of Dartmouth. His 6’4″ frame will be helpful in set pieces, an aspect of the game in which United has long been lacking. Joe Greenspan was expected to play that role in 2017, but missed much of the season due to injury and was released.

Three players in one round were not enough for MNUFC. Heath and company took the final pick of the first round from Toronto FC in exchange for a second round pick and $50,000 in TAM. With that pick, they selected another defender, Carter Manley from Duke, who trained with the Loons this offseason. Manley adds more depth and options to what we expect to be a new-look back line.

But wait, there’s more! In the second round, with the 41st overall pick, United selected Xavier Gomez of the University of Nebraska – Omaha. Gomez adds depth to a midfield that is currently a little wing-heavy.

In all the post-draft interviews with United staff, one word, spoken repeatedly, stands out: Potential. So, with five new Loons reporting to training on Monday, let’s just say the north is rising.

Featured image courtesy: @MNUFC

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The Colorado Rapids 2017-8 offseason

Jess Houwen - Colorado Rapids/mlsfemale
Official Colorado Rapids Reporter

By Jess Houwen // @jesshuh15

Hello readers. I hope you haven’t missed me too much. It’s been a busy offseason for the Colorado Rapids and I’ve not been able to keep up. (Okay, the first resolution of 2018 is to be better at keeping up with everything during the offseason.)

We’ve kept some players that we should have let go and let go of some that we should have hung on to. Thankfully the new expansion team, Los Angeles FC, overlooked us in the 2018 Expansion Draft. We have a new head coach and a lot of opportunity heading into the 2018 season.

Anyone who knows me (or follows me on Twitter) knows that I am not a fan of Shkëlzen Gashi or Jared Watts. I was definitely not happy to see that these players were put on the Protected List ahead of the 2018 Expansion Draft. Moreso, I was frustrated to see that the people we traded Sam Cronin and Marc Burch for, Mohammad Saied and Joshua Watts, were not protected. (Now, I will say that I do understand that Mo requested to not renew for personal reasons unbeknownst to me.)

To his credit, Gashi does seem to be working especially hard this offseason so maybe my second resolution of 2018 should be to give him half a chance this season. I am thrilled that the likes of Marlon Hairston, Tim Howard, and Stefan Aigner will be returning to the roster for 2018. I am equally excited to see what Johan Blomberg, Kip Colvey, Jack Price, Edgar Castillo, Deklan Wynn, and our new draft picks, Alan Winn and Frantzdy Pierrot, will bring to the field.

We ended 2017 with an interim head coach, Steve Cooke, who has since signed on as head coach and technical director with the Oklahoma City Energy FC and I certainly wish him the best there. With his departure, the Rapids brought in former New Zealand Men’s National team coach, Anthony Hudson, to fill the position.

He has made it clear that he expects to be in the playoffs for the 2018 season, a resolution for the new season that I think we can all agree on. After meeting him at an event introducing Price and Castillo, I am optimistic as to what he has to offer our existing players, to see how he incorporates our incoming players, and to see how he changes our game beyond our formation.

We’ll get an early taste of how these changes will impact the Rapids as we take on Toronto FC in the first leg of our CONCACAF Champions League games this February.

Featured image courtesy: @ColoradoRapids

Follow and chat with me on twitter // @jesshuh15

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