As Francisco Calvo left the National Sports Center for one of the last times until 2018, he wished the Minnesota United staff still gathered near the box office a “happy Christmas.”
It’s not even Halloween yet, but the Loons captain and the rest of his teammates likely won’t be back in Minnesota for another three months after United’s inaugural MLS season ended Sunday.
Well, if they’ll be back at all.
United, which ended this year at 10-18-6 — 19th of 22 teams — will conduct exit interviews with all its players Monday to begin reconstructing the roster in hopes of a better second season. Those players the team decides not to keep on likely will know their fate in the next month or so, as the team readies its protected and unprotected lists for December’s expansion draft.
Then it will be a matter of renegotiating with players who have options on their contracts and scouting for new additions. United coach Adrian Heath said he has trips planned in the coming weeks to South America and European countries France, Spain and Belgium. He said one or two moves likely will come from within the league, but probably most signings will be from outside.
In all, Heath estimated the roster turnover could be between five and seven players.
“We have a good nucleus to work from. We have five, six core pieces that we are really pleased with,” Heath said. “This is the most important period since I’ve been here for us to now make steps and make inroads moving forward. And that is the next signings that we make, I think, are going to be crucial for us.”
While Heath declined to comment on the specific futures of any players, he did commend the work of Calvo, Michael Boxall, Brent Kallman and Collin Martin. He also added that Sam Cronin, who missed the end of the season because of a concussion, is feeling better and was mostly kept out as a precaution once it was clear United wouldn’t make the playoffs.
One player definitely will not be a Loon next season, and that’s former captain Vadim Demidov, who lasted only three games and stopped practicing with the team in July despite making a team-high $550,000.
“Vadim right now is training in Europe, and both sides are kind of looking at next steps,” Sporting Director Manny Lagos said. “He won’t be back with us next year, so that’s a for sure.”
Lagos also added Rasmus Schuller is expected to be back with United by training camp, after ending the season on loan back in his native Finland where he has found success for both club and country recently. The Loons’ preseason will begin Jan. 23, Heath said, and include trips to Florida and South Carolina.
According to Lagos, United is targeting “a couple more offensive players that have a little more influence in the game that can control the tempo” as well as “depth in center midfielders and wide positions.” The team also is looking to add more “character” players who have leadership qualities, which will likely equate to “some mid-level good veterans.”
“And then after that, every year, you’ve got to add young potential talent to your roster,” Lagos said. “You’ve got to always invest in the future because you may not hit on all of it, but it’s a very valuable way of growing a healthy, financially stable roster.”
While the team will have one last hurrah get-together Monday to say their goodbyes potentially for longer than the offseason, midfielder Kevin Molino said the uncertain future isn’t too concerning.
“Nobody wants to see some of the guys leave,” Molino said. “Whatever decision the club makes is for the betterment of the club. So that’s just the reality. That is just sports, at times. Sometimes, things happen that you don’t want to happen, but it’s part of the game.”