Minnesota United has added Norwegian defender Vadim Demidov, who at age 30 is the oldest player signed to date to the new Major League Soccer franchise’s still-growing roster.
The club announced Demidov’s signing on Tuesday, just three days before it is set to make the first pick in the MLS SuperDraft of college players in Los Angeles.
The 6-1 Demidov, listed as a center defender or defensive midfielder, has been playing in Norway’s top soccer league. He was among the players scouted by Minnesota United Sporting Director Manny Lagos during a trip through Scandinavia last fall.
Demidov has been with SK Brann since 2014, earning a reputation for smart, aggressive play. He previously played with clubs in top leagues in Germany, Spain and Russia. In a statement released by the Loons, Demidov called it a “really easy choice’’ to join the Loons.
“I wanted to take on a new challenge and prove myself in a new league, and I am very happy to be able to do that here in Minnesota,’’ he said.
Lagos said the club was attracted by Demidov’s leadership qualities and willingness to be part of the unknown, including adversity, that goes with an expansion team launching itself into the top tier of U.S. soccer. “He’s excited to be part of this,’’ Lagos said.
Minnesota United coach Adrian Heath lauded Demidov’s “winning mentality and work ethic that’s so important for a club in growth. He fits the mold of the players we desire for in this club.”
The son of an international handball player, Demidov is a nationalized citizen born in modern-day Latvia. His family moved to Norway when his father took a coaching position there.
He signed his first pro soccer contract in 2004 and got his first call up to Norway’s national team in 2008. He played for the team in 16 matches, including some time in European Championship qualifying.
Demidov visited Minnesota for the first time last week during a run of below-zero weather. Lagos noted that he has played for a country of 5 million people and will now be in a place that is home to nearly 1 million people of Norwegian heritage.
Lago said he is looking at signing “a few more’’ players in Demidov’s age range as the club fills out its 28-player roster. Demidov is the 12th player signing announced to date.
The team is set to begin preseason training Jan. 23. The club is expected to train in Arizona until early February. The team expects to shift to Portland to train into the middle of February, including three games in the Portland Tournament.
Minnesota United opens its regular season on March 3 at Portland. The team’s home-opener is March 12 against fellow expansion franchise Atlanta at TCF Bank Stadium.