MLS FIELD GUIDE
Minnesota in the west
There are 22 Major League Soccer teams this season (with at least six more expansion franchises expect to join in coming years). They comprise an 11-team Eastern conference and 11-team Western conference. Minnesota United plays in the Western conference.
The regular season runs March through October, with each team playing 34 games, roughly once a week with a short summer break. The team with the best record overall at the end of the regular season wins the Supporters’ Shield. The top six teams in each conference move on to the playoffs, contested in November and December.
Getting a champion
The top two teams in each conference receive a bye to the conference semifinals while the remaining four teams play in the knockout first round. The conference semifinals and finals are a home-and-away series decided by the aggregate goals while the MLS Cup final is a single game. Added extra time and penalty shootouts are used, if needed, to determine a winner.
Paying for big names
MLS has a team salary cap of $3.845 million this season. To attract bigger name players in a world soccer market, teams can sign three designated players where only part of their salary counts against the cap. The rest is covered by the team. United doesn’t currently have any designated players.
This season’s pitch
Minnesota United’s home games this season will be played at TCF Bank Stadium on the University of Minnesota campus. And probably the 2018 season as well, until the team’s 20,000-seat, soccer-specific stadium in St. Paul is completed.
How to get a ticket
Single-match and season tickets are available for purchase at MNUFC.com or by calling 763-476-2237.
Loons in the playoffs this year?
History argues no. Of the 13 expansion sides that have joined MLS since its founding in 1996, only Chicago Fire won the league in its first season in 1998. Miami Fusion made the playoffs that season, too, but lost in the first round. Seattle Sounders FC also lost in the first round of the playoffs in 2009. No other expansion team has made the playoffs, four have finished dead last in the overall standings, and two, including Miami, don’t exist anymore.
On a nickname basis
Coach Adrian Heath is “Inchy” for his 5-6 stature. Best buds forward Christian Ramirez is “Superman’’ and midfielder Miguel Ibarra is “Batman.’’ Together, they’re “Rambarra.” Defender Kevin Venegas goes by “Viva.”
New face, familiar place
Adrian Heath, hired in November to coach the Loons, has done this expansion thing before. The 56-year-old Englishman was coach at Orlando City when the franchise moved from the United Soccer League to MLS in 2015. His teams won league titles twice in the USL, where he was named coach of the year in 2010 and 2012. In MLS play, Orlando City was 16-18-16 in 1½ seasons under Heath. He was let go in the middle of last season.
Back on top after 40 years
Pro soccer made its Minnesota debut in 1976 when the Minnesota Kicks drew big crowds to Metropolitan Stadium in what was then the nation’s top soccer league. The franchise folded in 1981 and others came and went. Minnesota United’s lineage dates back to 1990, when plans for a high-level amateur team called the Thunder evolved into a lower-level pro team. The Thunder later gave way to the Minnesota Stars, but it wasn’t until Twin Cities businessman Bill McGuire bought the team in 2012 and rebranded it as Minnesota United that it made its way to America’s top soccer league.
MLS FIELD GUIDE
Age: 34 Height: 6' 1" Weight: 194
The seasoned goalkeeper is 34, the oldest player on the roster and one of several new signings by United brought in for this season. He was the consistent starter for his previous top-division team back in Sweden for five years. The keeper is like the “quarterback,” as he is the one who sees the entire pitch and shouts instructions to field players. Having a mature presence in goal will help this new team stay cohesive.
Age: 28 Height: 5' 8" Weight: 158
Añor came on loan to the Loons last season in the NASL from Sporting Kansas City, but an ankle injury took him out for most of the season. While he won the fitness test this preseason in Arizona, a hamstring injury soon after has kept him from playing ever since. If the Venezuelan can overcome these injury woes, the winger could add to the stacked United attack.
San José, Costa Rica
Age: 24 Height: 5' 11" Weight: 170
Calvo will be part of United’s starting central defense, on the left to Vadim Demidov’s right. The Costa Rican national team member can also play at left-back.
Age: 21 Height: 5' 10" Weight: 170
United’s No. 1 draft pick is being groomed as the future of the club. The team’s youngest player at 21, he could become a catalyst similar to former No. 1 draft picks Jack Harrison of New York City FC and Cyle Larin of Orlando City SC. Lingering injuries might mute his impact right away, but he’ll have chances this season to show his worth.
Age: 28 Height: 6' 0" Weight: 175
The longtime United player will start at left-back for the Loons. Davis first came to the club in 2011 and has appeared in a club-record 169 games. He was one of the first players signed when United moved to MLS.
Thomas De Villardi
Age: 22 Height: 6' 1" Weight: 175
The Frenchman – with American citizenship, too – was the only other drafter player besides Abu Danladi that United signed. The midfielder has been playing mainly as a left-back in the preseason, and will likely back up Justin Davis in that spot this season.
Age: 30 Height: 6' 1" Weight: 176
Born in the former Soviet Union but raised in Norway, the worldly center-back has played all across Europe, including the top Spanish and German leagues. Despite being new the team, the 30-year-old has taken on the role of captain and brings a veteran’s mentality to the backline. Combined with Alvbage in goal, the central defense should be experienced, well-organized and strong.
Age: 25 Height: 5' 10" Weight: 165
The speedy winger was once a rising star for the U.S. men’s national team before three knee surgeries set him back for three years. Now back in the U.S. for the first time in his professional career, Gatt has featured as a striker for United in preseason and could press the starters in the attack for minutes.
Westfield, New Jersey
Age: 24 Height: 6' 6" Weight: 209
Also a member of the Naval Reserve Force, he never really had a chance to prove himself at former club Colorado Rapids. So Greenspan will back-up Vadim Demidov as the right-side center-back.
Age: 26 Height: 5' 6" Weight: 145
The winger played for United in NASL starting in 2012 before moving to Mexican club Leon in 2015. He was the first second-division player called up to the U.S. men’s national team in about a decade when he made the roster in 2014. He’s one of seven players with ties to United’s NASL side. Keeping that connection to the team’s past with a core group of players joining the MLS club has been a point of focus for United.
São Gonçalo, Brazil
Age: 33 Height: 5' 10" Weight: 168
The Brazilian has played all across the world in the top leagues of Brazil, Italy, Russia and Portugal. He even played with FC Barcelona star Neymar for two seasons at Brazilian club Santos. Expect him to come off the bench as a holding midfielder.
Age: 22 Height: 6' 1" Weight: 160
The Prairie Seeds Academy product can play as a defender (fullback), midfielder (winger) or forward, and that versatility will help him fill in as needed for United off the bench.
Age: 25 Height: 5' 10" Weight: 175
With United on a year-long loan, the winger will challenge Miguel Ibarra for minutes in the attack. An ACL injury limited the Dane’s playing time at FC Copenhagen, so he will be eager to play for United.
Age: 26 Height: 6' 2" Weight: 190
One of the infamous Minnesota Kallman soccer siblings, Brent Kallman joined his brother Brian, now retired, at United in 2013. He will back-up Francisco Calvo as the left-side center-back.
Chevy Chase, Maryland
Age: 22 Height: 5' 11" Weight: 150
Injuries have hindered the former D.C. United homegrown player. But he will hope to come off the bench as a central midfielder for United.
Eau Claire, Wisconsin
Age: 28 Height: 6' 3" Weight: 205
The other player United acquired in that big trade with Orlando City SC for Kevin Molino, McLain will be United’s third-choice goalkeeper this season.
Carenage, Trinidad and Tobago
Age: 26 Height: 5' 8" Weight: 155
Untied payed big MLS money for the Trinidad and Tobago national team member in a trade with Orlando City SC. The winger will be a creative force on United’s attack this season, reuniting with his longtime coach at Orlando, Adrian Heath.
Garden Grove, California
Age: 25 Height: 6' 2" Weight: 187
Another holdover from United’s NASL side, Ramirez will push Johan Venegas and Abu Danladi for playing time at forward. Ramirez is also reuniting in MLS with his best friend Miguel Ibarra.
Age: 26 Height: 5' 7" Weight: 141
The Swede will start in the midfield for United as one of the holding players. At previous club Columbus Crew, Saeid established himself as a rising central midfielder in the league.
Age: 25 Height: 5' 10" Weight: 148
The Finnish national team member will start for United at central midfielder. He’s also got the classic blonde hockey flow.
Tonawanda, New York
Age: 29 Height: 6' 2" Weight: 205
The longtime New England Revolution keeper will likely be United’s second-choice behind John Alvbage. In eight seasons with the Revs, he made 127 appearances, 124 starts, 34 shutouts and 344 saves with a 46-53-28 regular season record.
Age: 32 Height: 5' 10" Weight: 195
The Jamaican can play any of the back-four defensive positions and will be a necessary utility player there. He’s played in MLS since 2011 with two different clubs and will bring that experience to this expansion franchise.
Age: 29 Height: 5' 9" Weight: 155
The Swiss defender can play multiple positions but will likely start at right-back for United. He has spent his entire career in Switzerland, most recently at FC Luzern in the country’s top league.
Puerto Limón, Costa Rica
Age: 28 Height: 6' 0" Weight: 168
The Costa Rican national team member has played winger but will likely feature as a striker for United, where he has been successful in preseason. He will start for the Loons in that position.
Age: 27 Height: 5' 10" Weight: 165
A player for United since 2012, Venegas was one of the club’s first signings after moving to MLS. He will fight for time at right-back with Jermaine Taylor and Jerome Thiesson.
Age: 28 Height: 5' 10" Weight: 178
The MLS journeyman will start as a holding midfielder for United. He was a part of Impact Montreal’s first season as an expansion club and will bring much league experience to the Loons.
The Englishman had a near 20-year playing career, including an incredibly successful stint at Everton in the 1980s. He began his coaching career in the mid-90s in England before moving to the U.S. in 2008 to start the Austin Aztex, which eventually became MLS team Orlando City SC. While Orlando fired Heath halfway through the 2016 season, the coached jumped into another expansion endeavor with United in late November and will bring his possession-style strategy to the Loons.
Fuller started as a player-coach under Heath with the Austin Aztex, eventually becoming a full-time assistant when the team went to MLS as Orlando City SC in 2015. He spent 2016 as an assistant with United before reuniting with Heath in Minnesota for 2017.
Watson, a former Canadian national team defender, started his coaching career in 2004 while he was still playing. He was the head coach of the San Jose Earthquakes for a little more than a year before coming on as an assistant at Orlando City SC, with Adrian Heath and Ian Fuller, for the 2015 season. He left the club the same time Heath did halfway through 2016 and joined him and Fuller again at United for this 2017 season.
The Norwegian goalkeeping coach is a new face for United and coach Adrian Heath. He had been the goalkeeping coach with fellow MLS side Vancouver Whitecaps FC since 2011.
MLS FIELD GUIDE
Friday, March 3, 8:30 p.m.
vs. Atlanta United FC
Sunday, March 12, 4 p.m.
@ Colorado Rapids
Saturday, March 18, 8 p.m.
@ New England
Saturday, March 25, 1 p.m.
vs. Real Salt Lake
Saturday, April 1, 7 p.m.
@ FC Dallas
Saturday, April 8, 7 p.m.
Saturday, April 15, 7:30 p.m.
vs. Colorado Rapids
Sunday, April 23, 5 p.m.
vs. San Jose
Saturday, April 29, 7 p.m.
vs. Sporting K.C.
Sunday, May 7, 12:30 p.m.
The Loons will potentially foster a now-major league rivalry with their former U.S. Open Cup opponent. The teams also play at 4 p.m. June 3 at Kansas City and 7 p.m. Oct. 7 also at TCF Bank Stadium. United midfielder Bernardo Anor also used to play for Kansas City in 2015.
Saturday, May 13, 2 p.m.
vs. Los Angeles
Sunday, May 21, 4 p.m.
vs. Orlando City
Saturday, May 27, 7 p.m.
This is United coach Adrian Heath’s only scheduled faceoff with his former team, which fired him halfway through last season. United Players Kevin Molino and Patrick McLain will also match up against their old club.
@ Sporting K.C.
Saturday, June 3, 4 p.m.
@ Real Salt Lake
Saturday, June 17, 9 p.m.
Wednesday, June 21, 7 p.m.
Saturday, June 24, 7 p.m.
@ N.Y.C. FC
Thursday, June 29, 6:30 p.m.
This is probably the most alluring road game because New York City and Yankee Stadium and all that. NYCFC also has two World Cup winners on the roster, Spanish star David Villa and Italian legend Andrea Pirlo.
Tuesday, July 4, 6 p.m.
Skip baseball this year and celebrate America’s Independence Day with a Fourth of July match against the 2015 MLS Cup runners-up. It’s also midfielder Mo Saeid’s former team.
Wednesday, July 19, 7 p.m.
vs. New York
Saturday, July 22, 3 p.m.
vs. D.C. United
Saturday, July 29, 7 p.m.
Saturday, August 5, 7 p.m.
This will be the first matchup with the current MLS Cup champions, with a trip to Seattle schedule at the end of the month. U.S. national team star forward Clint Dempsey plays for the Sounders.
@ Atlanta United
Sunday, August 13, 5 p.m.
Sunday, August 20, 9 p.m.
Saturday, August 26, 7:30 p.m.
Saturday, September 9, 7 p.m.
Wednesday, September 13, 9 p.m.
Saturday, September 16, 6:30 p.m.
vs. FC Dallas
Saturday, September 23, 7 p.m.
Saturday, September 30, 7:30 p.m.
vs. Sporting K.C.
Saturday, October 7, 7 p.m.
@ Los Angeles
Sunday, October 15, 4 p.m.
@ San Jose
Sunday, October 22, 3 p.m.
MLS FIELD GUIDE
Soccer — if that’s even its real name — has a whole language that can be quite confusing to walk into if you’re new to the sport. Read on to decipher what exactly people are talking about:
Soccer: Or football if you’re in the UK. Or futbol if you’re in a Spanish-speaking country. Or Calcio if you’re in Italy. Call “the beautiful game” whatever you feel like. Don’t let Europeans shame you for being American and calling it soccer. And don’t let Americans shame you for being un-American by calling it anything else.
Pitch: Not to be confused with throwing a baseball, a soccer pitch is the field. Optimal dimensions are 110-120 yards long and 70-80 yards wide.
Kits: The uniforms! Jerseys are also called “shirts” in soccer while cleats are called “boots.”
Gaffer: Another name for the head coach. Also known as “manager.” The boss, essentially.
FC: Football Club. Many teams have “FC” at the end of their names, like Minnesota United FC. If it’s a Spanish-speaking club, it might have “CF,” for Club de Futbol. Orlando City in MLS has tacked on SC for “Soccer Club.” Not every team has it in their name, but it’s become a common theme.
Table: The standings.
Side: Another way to reference a team. Also, club.
Friendly: It’s essentially an exhibition, a match that doesn’t mean anything in terms of official results.
Stoppage time: Extra playing time that results from how game time is kept. There are two 45-minute halves, with the clock counting up from zero to 90 minutes and not resetting at halftime. The halves won’t always end right at 45 minutes and 90 minutes because the clock doesn’t stop for injuries, fouls, substitutions, etc. At the end of each half, the referee can add stoppage time, usually between one and five minutes, to make up for some of those delays. It’s at the referee’s discretion how much is added, but a minimum of the time announced must be played.
Yellow card: Also known as a caution card. The referee will show a player a yellow card as a warning, usually after several fouls or some other naughty behavior. Two yellow cards in a game equals a red card, with the player immediately ejected from the current game and suspended the next. Players can also be suspended for a game on yellow card accumulation, starting when they reach five.
Red cards: Immediate ejections from the current game and suspension from the next. Straight red cards are used for something flagrant, like obstructing a goal-scoring opportunity or violent conduct. Once a player has been sent off, the team cannot replace him, meaning the team must play “a man down.”
Offside: In a hockey state, this shouldn’t be too hard to follow. Essentially, a player is in an offside position when in the opposing team’s half of the field and closer to that goal line than the ball and the second-to-last opponent. If that offside player then becomes involved in play, the assistant referee will flag that player and give the opposing team an indirect free kick.
Offside stuff is hard to catch unless you’re looking at the right place at the right time, so don’t worry if it takes you some time to catch it. The rule is in place to prevent attacking players from just hanging out by an opponent’s goal and waiting for a pass to score.
Free kicks: Direct and indirect. Are awarded after fouls committed by the opposing team as a way to restart play. A goal can be scored from a direct free kick – those usually occur close to the box in front of the goal. The opposing team lines up in a wall to try and block it. Indirect free kicks can’t score goals because they’re not … direct.
Tackle: Unlike in American football, soccer tackling is a way of winning the ball back from an opposing player using your feet. The most flashy kind is a slide tackle, where a player will slide in front of an opposing player to sweep the ball away with his feet.
Dribble: Think basketball, except feet do the work. A way to travel across the pitch while in possession with the ball.