One training session in as Minnesota United FC players and new additions Marc Burch and Sam Cronin found out an important characteristic of the Loons on Tuesday: They practice hard.
“That was the most work that I’ve done in a training in a long time, and it was good quality, too,” said left-back Marc Burch, who has played in Major League Soccer since 2006. “But training was great so far. I love it.”
United acquired Cronin and Burch in a transaction Friday with the Colorado Rapids, where Burch had played since 2014 and Cronin since 2015 after beginning his league career in 2009. Both were starters. Cronin, who is a holding midfielder, was also captain.
But the two, after learning this past Friday morning of their move to Minnesota, are now tasked with lending their experience, leadership and defensive strength to the Loons, who urgently need help in all those areas.
“They looked what they are: experienced MLS footballers,” United coach Adrian Heath said of the pair after practice Tuesday. “They looked like two guys who have played [a combined] 400 league games. They looked like two guys who are comfortable wherever they are. They know what they’re about now.
“They’re not trying to re-invent themselves. They know what they do, and that’s what I said to them this morning, they’ve been brought here to just continue what they’ve done all their career. And if they do that, they’re going to be really good additions to the group.”
Heath said he would make a decision “by the end of the week” on if Burch and Cronin will enter the starting lineup come the 7 p.m. Saturday match at FC Dallas, but “there’s a good chance they’ll be involved in some shape or form at the weekend.” Heath had said last week he plans to pair Cronin with Collen Warner in the defensive midfield.
“It’s funny how quickly you move on. [The transaction] was only a few days ago, but I’m already feeling more settled here,” Cronin said. “It was great just to get out with the guys and get to know them a little bit better. … I learned a long time ago in MLS you’re never as bad as you think you are, as people tell you you are. The team got punched in the face the first couple weeks, but obviously, they kept grinding, had a great result last weekend, and they deserved it. So [we’ve got to] keep progressing, keep working, and anything’s possible for us this year.”
Burch said Cronin is a natural leader who knows when to get on his teammates and when to put an arm around them. Cronin called Burch one of the best left-sided players in the league with a great delivery, passing and competitive nature.
Cronin and Heath both remarked how Burch plays with an “edge.” Cronin added that the defender “stands up for himself” and his teammates.
“I think of myself as kind of a quiet, low-key type person, but when I’m on the field, there’s something in me, you know?” Burch said. “I mean, I have lots of friends around the league here, and it doesn’t matter whom I’m playing against for those 90 minutes, I give it my all. And if the ref steps in the way, it’s him. If it’s the other coach, it’s him. If it’s the other players, it doesn’t matter.
“And I’ll get on my own teammates as well. It’s really like when I get out there, I’m a different person. Here it’s teammates, it’s fun, it’s friends. But when you’re on the field, I’ll do anything to win.”
While Burch and Cronin only arrived in the state Monday, the two have already taken in the Mississippi River. Burch called it trading Colorado’s mountains for Minnesota’s water. He added he’s glad to have a familiar face during this quick transition, as he left behind a girlfriend, dog and house in Denver while Cronin left behind his wife and kids as well.
“When you’re 23, 24, 25, you just pack up your apartment, you get out. But there’s other things that come along with it when you’ve been in the league for a while,” Burch said. “It’s hard to go from giving everything you’ve got for one club for a few years and then just be like, ‘Oh, well, you’re doing it for someone else [now].’ So it was nice that [United] gave me the weekend to be able to settle in and get my mindset right coming in and just time to give my all here.”