Frequent contributor Jon Marthaler has written about virtually every sport in the Twin Cities, and fills in on Saturdays for the RandBall blog on StarTribune.com. He'll cover the professional soccer scene in the Twin Cities, whether at the Metrodome or at the National Sports Center.
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Now that the 2013 NASL season is over, the offseason can get into full swing - and, for Minnesota United FC, that means it's time to start making some contract decisions.
Unlike other pro sports leagues, none of the United players have guaranteed multi-year deals. For the vast majority of its players, United holds contract options for 2014 - meaning they can choose whether to bring them back or release them as free agents. For the most part, United signs players to one-year contracts with these team options for a second year, so all but a handful are waiting to find out whether Minnesota will pick up their options.
I talked to team president Nick Rogers to get the contract details for United's players. Here's what we know:
Pablo Campos is the only player who is already officially signed for next year. His contract included performance incentives - likely related to goals, though Rogers wouldn't go into details - and he met those, thus making his option year into a contract year for 2014.
Keeper Mitch Hildebrandt, winger Omar Daley, fullback Kevin Venegas, and center back Connor Tobin are the only players who are completely out of contract and free agents. This is not to say that the team will not bring any of them back, but all four have the ability to negotiate with any team.
It'll be interesting to see where the team's free-agent interest lies; Tobin was first choice all year at center back, and developed a good partnership with Aaron Pitchkolan at center back in the second half of the season. Venegas showed flashes after moving from midfield to fullback for the season, and Daley - signed in the summer - finished the year with a hat trick at Tampa Bay. Hildebrandt served as a backup for most of the season, but could well return next season in the same role, especially given his youth (he turned 25 on Tuesday).
Midfielders Calum Mallace and Sinisa Ubiparipovic were on loan from Montreal, and thus, have returned to being property of the Impact. Barring a major change in their Montreal status, it's unlikely that either will be back.
United holds options on the remainder, giving them the ability to pick and choose. They're virtually certain to bring back a few players, including winger Miguel Ibarra, who will no doubt get another chance to prove that he can be one of NASL's best on the wing. I would also expect them to bring back Pitchkolan; he was the best Minnesota player this year, and has the versatility to play as a center back or in defensive midfield.
As for the free-agent market, look for Minnesota to be active in trying to find central midfielders, especially central midfielders with the ability to play an attacking role. United is likely to be rumored to sign just about every central midfielder available, so be prepared for a deluge of rumors as the offseason moves along.
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