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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Tick. Tick. Tick.
Just about every day that passes brings news of another potential Minnesota United target that will be playing his soccer elsewhere next year. Midfielder Luke Mulholland? Signed with Real Salt Lake. Defender Connor Tobin, a Minnesota fan favorite and a first-choice United center back last year? Gone, to Carolina. Forward Mike Ambersley? Off to Indy.
Nor are the other teams in the NASL standing pat. Tampa Bay, which lost Mulholland, signed 2013 Golden Boot winner Brian Shriver away from Carolina. Atlanta brought back Matt Horth, who led the Silverbacks in scoring in 2011 and 2012. And on, and on.
It's gotten bad enough that fans on United's sub-reddit have taken to posting pictures of cute animals in the comments on every new signing, in the hopes of distracting themselves from the lack of top signings for Minnesota yet this year.
Team president Nick Rogers, however, is yet to start worrying - and says that it's too early for fans to start being concerned. "We are working on signings that people will be impressed by," he said, noting that Minnesota's fans seem to have a tendency to panic too quickly.
When I talked to Rogers, in fact, he was just about to head out of the office on an international trip to an "undisclosed location in Western Europe," with the possibility of inking a player to a deal. (He promised to post hints as to where he is on Instagram, so if you'd like to guess as to where in the world he is, you can follow him on Twitter.)
As it stands, there are 17 players on Minnesota's roster from last year - 15 holdovers, plus Christian Ramirez and Mozzi Gyorio, neither of whom was a big name. And with the loss of Tobin, you can add center back to the list of Minnesota's needs for next year, which have centered on the need for an attacking midfielder and a forward to complement Pablo Campos.
Of course, there is plenty of time to find squad players. The NASL Combine is this weekend, and United has its own combine coming up from February 2-5. When preseason begins, the team usually has a handful of players on trial as well, some of whom almost always make the final squad and help fill out the numbers.
Rogers wouldn't promise that the team would sign a household name, but is looking to find more than just backup players in the next few weeks. "There are hardcore fans that have heard of some of these guys," he said. "I think people will be impressed."
The international transfer window closes at the end of January, after which a lot of Europe-based players will be stuck with their clubs. Rogers, for his part, is asking fans to wait on their panic at least until the month is over. "I can tell you [United owner] Dr. [Bill] McGuire was not pleased with being in mid-table last year," he said. "I think we will put more resources into the team this year than last year, and certainly make better decisions in terms of personalities. In two weeks, if we've announced nothing: then you can panic."
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