Per soccer tradition, a new season means a new kit. And Minnesota United debuted a new 2018 version — with stripes — Sunday afternoon.
But the event was noticeably grander than the inaugural version a year ago. Then, about 1,000 fans came to Machine Shop to see the first primary and secondary kits. This time, fans in United gear — as well as passing shoppers — filled the ground floor of Mall of America’s rotunda and lined the floors above it.
That speaks to the club’s growing relevancy, sporting director Manny Lagos said.
“Our guys need to be cordoned off. They need to have a green room to really get ready to go to this event,” Lagos said. “We have fans that want to make a day of interacting with us for this event at the mall from all over the state. That’s so cool.”
The event featured on-stage interviews with players and coach Adrian Heath, which the team’s broadcasting trio conducted. The players modeled the new threads, and a few played some Newlywed-like games for the crowd.
The new kits will replace last season’s gray primary kits with the blue sash. Last season’s white secondary kits will remain in the rotation. The 2018 uniforms, in short- and long-sleeve styles, sport dark and light gray vertical stripes as well as a red button at the collar, to symbolize the red eye of a loon, the team’s mascot. The new goalkeeper kits have horizontal stripes in shades of blue.
The team is back for a few days between preseason trips. The Loons won 4-1 against Florida International University and 8-0 over Eastern Florida State College as well as taking a 4-1 loss in a closed-door scrimmage with Orlando City SC in Florida. The team leaves for Charleston, S.C., on Wednesday, where it has three more preseason matches before opening the season March 3 at San Jose.
“I’m positive it’s going to be a different year this year,” team captain Francisco Calvo said. “Because everything is better since I came here. Everything is better than last year, and when you feel that, when you see your teammates on the field, and you see how the training, how we compete with each other, I have a feeling. I hope that feeling comes true.”
Heath confirmed on stage that the rumors of United trying to sign Colombian midfielder Nicolas Benedetti from Deportivo Cali were true. United reportedly offered in the $6 million range for the 20-year-old, who would become the team’s first designated player. But Benedetti’s arrival doesn’t seem imminent. “At this moment in time, that’s gone quiet,” Heath said. “I think the most important thing is that gives people an idea of the caliber of player that we’re trying to bring into the club.”