In pictures: Alonso and Roldan brothers lead Seattle to 3-1 win over Minnesota

Seattle Sounders FC notched their first win of the season on Sunday with a 3-1 win at home against Minnesota United FC. Sounders scored two goals in two minutes from Gustav Svensson and Will Bruin to give Seattle an early lead after 25 minutes. Minnesota brought one back in the 66th minute from Christian Ramirez before Jordy Delem scored his first MLS goal in the dying seconds of the match to end the visitors’ comeback bid.

For the second-straight week Alex Roldan got the start as Magnus Wolff Eikrem and Clint Dempsey both started on the bench before coming on as substitutes. Roldan brought a needed energy to the lineup and made great off-ball runs to create space for his teammates. “I always liked Alex,” said coach Brian Schmetzer after the match. “I thought he was very, very good [at Seattle U]… I just think it’s a great storyline because Alex is becoming not just Cristian’s brother but he’s becoming his own man and I enjoy that.” While he didn’t show up on the stat sheet this week, he outperformed both Dempsey and Eikrem his 60 minutes on the pitch and made a solid case for his continued inclusion in the lineup.

Osvaldo Alonso was healthy enough to make his first start for Seattle since August 27th of last year when he suffered the right quad strain that kept him out of the 2017 MLS Cup. With Alonso in the lineup Seattle are able to control the midfield and organize their attack and that was on display against Minnesota. When Eikrem replaced Alonso in the 75th minute for a planned substitution, Minnesota was able to find more attacking chances due to not having Alonso’s defensive presence in the centre of the pitch.

It was also a great game for Cristian Roldan, recording assists on the first two goals of the match. Playing much of the match in an attacking midfield position, Roldan coordinated the attack, ran at defenders, and drew the attention of the Minnesota defense which opened the field for his teammates.

He and Alonso would get the assists on the first goal of the match as Roldan, playing just in front of United’s back four, draws two defenders as the pass comes from Alonso and makes a first touch pass to Svensson in the now vacated space. Svensson then unleashes a rocket of a ball into the top left corner of the goal with one of the better strikes we’ll see this season.

The second assist for Roldan is the more impressive if not the flashier of the two as he makes a smart run into space on the left wing to stretch the defense before hitting a first time cross into the box. His cross is low and well hit but most impressively it splits two defenders from 20 yards away to find Bruin open at the top of the six-yard-box.

The biggest concern for Seattle though, as they look towards LAFC next week, is how their pace and aggression dropped off after the first 30 minutes of the match. “It was a good [opening] 30 minutes. The key is that we need to watch the film and figure out why, after 30 minutes, the team didn’t perform as well as they should have,” said Schmetzer. “I challenged them at halftime a little bit. ‘You want to be a championship team? Championship teams are able to finish games out, close games out, get that third goal and make sure that the game becomes a little easier.’ After the game, my opinion changed a little bit and I said, ‘Well, championship teams actually kind of win ugly sometimes, and you’ve got to gut things through.’ That’s another character trait of championship teams. In October, nobody’s going to remember that this was a hard game. They’re just going to say, 3-1 scoreline and that’s three points.”

Seattle Sounders next match sees them opening up Banc of California Stadium in Los Angeles as they face LAFC. They’ll be looking to get revenge on the league’s newest team after losing 1-0 in the opening game of the season as they kick off at 6 PM PT (1 AM GMT) on Sunday April 29th.

Check out exclusive photos of Sunday’s game, courtesy of MLSGB photographers Denise McCooey and Paul Kahl.

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2018 Key Transfers: Minnesota United

With the 2018 MLS season drawing ever closer, we will be running through the main ins and outs for all 23 teams over the course of the winter transfer window. There have been a number of key signings and significant trades which should ensure the new season is as exciting as ever before. Today we take a look at Minnesota United and their key signings ahead of their second MLS campaign in 2018…

Minnesota’s inaugural season in MLS was average. They did relatively well with what they had at their disposal, finishing 9th in a very competitive Western Conference. But the points gap between them making the playoffs was as many as ten. Their aim for 2018 has to be to improve on last season, however as you’d expect all the sides who will be gunning for the playoffs will have also improved their squads. Signing just six players so far doesn’t suggest Minnesota are going to be automatic favourites for the playoffs, but they should be able to grow and with each passing game more experience will come. 2017 wasn’t good. But it wasn’t terrible either, given how tough it is for expansion sides.

Key Signings

Tyrone Mears: Having conceded a league high of 70 goals last season it is no surprise to see Minnesota bring in some defensive experience. At 34, Tyrone Mears has an MLS Cup to his name and will bring plenty to the squad both on and off the field.

Matt Lampson: Another defensive signing and this time in the goalkeeping department. Matt Lampson has been playing in MLS since 2012, however he has made just 51 appearances in that time. He may well be selected as the new number one for Minnesota, although last season regular Sammy Ndjock is still at the club. Lampson will be able to provide another experienced head at the club, even through just being part of squad as he heads into his sixth MLS year.

Harrison Heath: At 21, Harrison Heath is another solid signing for Minnesota. He is yet to really make a name for himself but this season may be his chance. His family connection with head coach Adrian Heath will see plenty expected from him and the pressure will be on him to deliver even more so when selected. One to watch…

Mason Toye: Picked up in the SuperDraft, there will not be a huge amount expected from Mason Toye in his first professional season. At 19 the forward comes in with a college soccer record of 10 goals in 25 games last season. He is 6ft 3 and will be hoping to get chances to prove himself.

Notable Departures

Kevin Venegas: While Minnesota’s defence struggled to cope with the pressures of MLS in their debut campaign there were some players who would have enjoyed a second shot at it in the coming season. Kevin Venegas is one of those faces but the club he decided he is not in their plans for the coming season.

Jermaine Taylor: While Jermaine Taylor only featured 14 times last season for Minnesota he is a notable departure in the respect that he has plenty of experience. Despite nearing 150 MLS appearances, he is one of those that the club have decided to part company with in their bid to find more defensive solidarity in the 2018 campaign.

Johan Venegas: Minnesota have loaned out Johan Venegas after he made 22 appearances in 2017. They clearly see the value in looking to keep him in part of their long-term plans, with his departure not a permanent one as of yet.

Gallery: Seattle Sounders 2-1 Minnesota United – Last-gasp Dempsey penalty breaks Loons hearts

Seattle Sounders 2-1 Minnesota United – Minnesota were seconds away from picking up an impressive away draw at Seattle on Sunday. But then the referee pointed to the spot. Clint Dempsey stepped up, and converted to complete the hosts’ comeback victory.

Minnesota have still yet to win an away game in MLS. But they must have fancied their chances when new arrival Ethan Finlay scored on his Loons debut. The former Columbus man put the visitors 1-0 up against the odds. But their lead didn’t last long.

Set-pieces have hurt Minnesota so often this season and Sunday was no different. Chad Marshall headed home from Nicolas Lodeiro’s cross in the 31st minute to tie the game up. But the Sounders struggled to kick on.

Minnesota stood firm and created chances themselves, with rookie striker Abu Danladi missing a couple of golden opportunities. The scores were level heading into the final few seconds. But then Seattle got the penalty.

Jermaine Taylor was adjudged to have handled the ball inside the area. Dempsey stepped up and coolly slotted past Bobby Shuttleworth to give the hosts their third-straight win. The Sounders are top of the West. The Loons stay bottom.

Check out exclusive photos from Sunday’s game below, courtesy of MLSGB photographers Denise McCooey and Paul Kahl.

Seattle Sounders 2-1 Minnesota United – Gallery:

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MLS Preview and Prediction: New York City FC vs Minnesota United

Competition: Major League Soccer – New York City FC vs. Minnesota United
Venue: Yankee Stadium – Thursday, June 29 – 19:30 ET (00:30 BST)
Match Odds: NYCFC 2/5 – Draw 15/4 – Minnesota 11/2

Match Preview

New York City welcome Minnesota United to Yankee Stadium on Thursday night as Week 18 gets started with a first-ever MLS clash between the two sides.

NYCFC will be in high spirits after picking up a first win at Red Bull Arena in Saturday’s 2-0 derby win. That result kept them in third place in the East and just five behind Toronto at the top of the standings.

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Patrick Vieira’s men have looked strong all season but they are particularly good at home. They are unbeaten in four at Yankee Stadium and have won three of those.

That will sound ominous for a Minnesota side that have struggled massively on their travels in their inaugural season so far.

The Loons have lost four in a row away from home in all competitions and have picked up just two points from eight away games in MLS this term.

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They come into the game off the back of Saturday’s hard-fought 2-2 home draw with Vancouver, in which they came back from two goals to earn a point. But they know they will need to put in a special performance if they are to halt NYCFC on Thursday.

This will be the first clash between the two sides in history, so it should be an exciting matchup between two sides with plenty of dangerous attacking players at their disposal.

Team News

New York City FC will be without attacking duo Khiry Shelton and Maxi Moralez once again, with both still sidelined through injury. Ronald Matarrita is in line to start after coming off the bench in Saturday’s win at Red Bull Arena.

Minnesota United’s injury list is still worrying long as Bernardo Anor, Thomas de Villardi, Joseph Greenspan, Abu Danladi, Marc Burch, Vadim Demidov and Brent Kallman are all set to miss out.

Key Points

NYCFC’s form: L/D/W/W/W

Minnesota United’s form: W/L/L/W/D

Key Stat: Minnesota United haven’t won away from home since joining MLS. In fact, they haven’t won a single away game of any kind since beating FC Edmonton in April 2016.

Key Player: Jack Harrison – The young English attacker has been in great form this season and added his seventh goal of the season in Saturday’s 2-0 win at the Red Bulls with a fine strike into the top corner. He has three goals and two assists in his last six MLS outings and will look to hurt the Loons here.

Score Prediction

New York City FC 3-0 Minnesota United – It’s difficult to see anything other than an NYCFC win in this one. Minnesota are decimated by injuries and haven’t looked like winning away from home this season. New York City have hit stride at a crucial stage of the season and should continue to put pressure on Toronto FC at the top of the East with a routine home victory.

MLS Preview and Prediction: New England Revolution vs Minnesota United

Competition: Major League Soccer – New England Revolution vs. Minnesota United
Venue: Gillette Stadium – Saturday, March 25 – 14:00 ET (18:00 GMT)
Match Odds: New England Revolution 2/5 – Draw 100/30 – Minnesota United 13/2

Match Preview

New England play their first home match of the season on Saturday night, with Minnesota United making the trip to Gillette Stadium with both sides still looking for their first win of 2017.

Having lost both games so far, the Revolution are already off the pace in the race for the playoffs. Of course they are only two games in, but points on the board will be essential come crunch time and the Revs need to pick up quickly as a result.

Their home game with Orlando City was postponed two weeks ago due to bad weather but New England will now hope that playing in front of their own fans will see their fortunes improve.

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Failing to win here would put serious questions on the direction of the franchise after two seasons which have seen the side underperform after reaching the 2014 MLS Cup Final. It cannot be long before Jay  Heaps’ position is put under scrutiny if things don’t turn around.

On the flip side, Adrian Heath will be in charge for only his fourth competitive match as Minnesota manager. However, his disappointing time in Orlando has left his critics with a lot to mull over and a quick turnaround after a slow start would do both Heath, and the team the world of good.

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As Minnesota still search for a debut win in MLS, they will have to dismantle a run of four-straight home wins in MLS for the Revolution stretching back to last season. They will also need to try and shut the flood gates at the back, which have seen them concede 13 goals in only three games thus far.

Like we mentioned before, this game is an interesting one. Both sides are desperately craving three points and so we are expecting an open affair. Minnesota will have to prove their squad depth with so many players away on international duty or on the sidelines with injuries.

Team News

New England Revolution will be without goalkeeper Brad Knighton, who misses out with a concussion. Zachary Herivaux is listed as questionable with a right ankle sprain. The Revs are fortunate to have no international call-ups to contend with as they look for their first points of the season.

Minnesota United are missing eight for the trip to Boston and are set to only be able to name a 17-man squad as a result. Bernardo Anor and John Alvbage are out with leg injuries, while Patrick McLain and Joseph Greenspan are both out with concussions.Thomas de Villardi has suffered a serious injury and is expected to be out for some time. On the international front, Kevin Molino (Trinidad), Francisco Calvo (Costa Rica) and Rasmus Schuller (Finland) are all away and won’t be involved. Justin Davis is suspended after picking up a red card last weekend.

Key Points

New England Revolution’s form: L/L

Minnesota United’s form: L/L/D

Key Stat: Minnesota United have conceded a total of 13 goals in their opening three fixtures – an average of 4.3 per game.

Key Player: Lee Nguyen – The Revolution’s maestro should be the most creative player on the park come Saturday and could see plenty of the ball to cause trouble against a Minnesota defence that has proven to be the most vulnerable in the league through the first month of the new season.

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Score Prediction

New England Revolution 2-1 Minnesota United – Both sides are out of form and struggling to adapt to the most competitive MLS season to date. Minnesota have the excuse of being the new guys but will likely struggle with so many players absent for their trip to Boston. This is a big game for the home side and we see the Revolution edging it, just.

MLS Preview and Prediction: Minnesota United vs Atlanta United

Competition: Major League Soccer – Minnesota United vs. Atlanta United
Venue: TCF Bank Stadium – Sunday, March 12 – 17:00 ET (21:00 GMT) 
Match Odds: Minnesota 6/4 – Draw 2/1 – Atlanta 7/4

Match Preview

Minnesota United take on fellow expansion side Atlanta United on Sunday evening in what will be another historic occasion for the league’s two newest members, with at least one of them set for their first MLS points in their only meeting of the year.

Minnesota have sold over 30,000 season tickets ahead of their first ever home game in the league and an incredible atmosphere is expected at what will be a freezing cold TCF Bank Stadium on Sunday.

The Loons have a lot to improve on following last Friday’s 5-1 defeat at Portland, in which they conceded two goals in stoppage time after a late collapse. Adrian Heath has had a lot to work on this week, but the defensive acquisition of Swiss full-back Jerome Thiesson should help ease some of the problems at the back.

 

Minnesota look set for a long and challenging season. They don’t have the financial muscle that other clubs in the league have and are relying on grit and determination to get them through their inaugural season. They still have enough experience to rack up wins and will be hoping they can see that here.

But Atlanta United will be out to spoil the party, a painful feeling they know too well after losing two late goals to the Red Bulls in last Sunday’s 2-1 defeat in their first ever MLS clash.

Atlanta showed a lot of positive signs but were ultimately undone by one of the league’s best teams. That’s nothing to be ashamed about but Tata Martino knows his side have enough quality to cause the Minnesota backline a ton of problems.

 

The South-American attack will likely find a lot more joy than they did against the Red Bulls and if they can get in behind Minnesota as a result of their high press, there could be an endless stream of chances for the visitors.

Both sides are still developing and still learning about themselves and the league. This is the perfect fixture for both these teams in Week 2 and all eyes will be on TCF Bank Stadium as we look to learn more about the two newest members of Major League Soccer.

Team News

Minnesota have just the one injury concern ahead of their first ever home game in MLS, with Bernardo Anor ruled out with a hamstring problem. Adrian Heath has added defensive depth this week, with the addition of Swiss full-back Jerome Thiesson, who is expected to slot straight into the starting lineup as the Loons look to address their early defensive problems from last week’s heavy defeat in Portland.

Atlanta United have just the one injury concern themselves, with Zach Loyd ruled out with a groin problem. However, Tata Martino will have to change his lineup after Carlos Carmona picked up a needless red card last Sunday. The experienced Jeff Larentowicz will likely fill in for Carmona here.

Key Points

Minnesota’s form: L

Atlanta’s form: L

Key Stat: Threat – Only four MLS teams had more shots than the 14 Atlanta United registered on opening weekend. That will be a concern for a Minnesota United team that conceded 25% of the total goals scored on opening weekend.

Key Player: Kevin Molino – The home crowd will be dreaming of a historic victory on what will be a special day for the city and they can look to Molino to provide the attacking spark needed to break down Atlanta here. If Molino rises to the occasion, he will be able to have fans off their seats throughout the contest.

Score Prediction

Minnesota United 1-3 Atlanta United – This should be one of the season’s most memorable games for all the stories surrounding the game. The action on the field should be entertaining too, with neither side set up to defend, so that should lead to an open and attacking game. Atlanta have much more quality in the final third and should prove that.

Gallery: Exclusive images from Portland’s 5-1 demolition of Minnesota

The 2017 MLS season kicked off on Friday night and the Portland Timbers gave Minnesota United a harsh reality check in the expansion side’s first game in the league.

The Timbers won 5-1, with Fanendo Adi and Diego Valeri both grabbing a brace as the home side ran away with the season opener in front of a packed Providence Park.

Lawrence Olum was the unlikely scorer of the first goalscorer of the new season, with the score staying 1-0 into halftime. Valeri then doubled the hosts lead early in the second half, before Christian Ramirez scored Minnesota’s first ever MLS goal to give the visitors a glimmer of hope.

But Portland ran away with the game in the final ten minutes. Valeri scored a penalty on 82 minutes, before Fanendo Adi scored two breakaway goals in stoppage time to see the Timbers win 5-1.

You can see exclusive photos from Friday’s game below, courtesy of MLSGB Photographer Denise McCooey.

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MLS 2017 Season Preview and Predictions

The 2017 MLS Season is here at last. A record-high 22 teams will battle for this year’s MLS Cup in what is Major League Soccer’s 22nd season. Two new expansion franchises enter the league this year, with Atlanta United joining the Eastern Conference and Minnesota United joining the West, while Orlando City’s brand new soccer-specific stadium will host MLS matches for the first time too. The top six in each conference will make the playoffs once again, but with 11 sides now in each, things are sure to be more competitive than ever before in what could be the most unpredictable season in the league’s history.

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The New Boys

It’s been a busy offseason for Atlanta and Minnesota, with both sides dealing with the challenge of building a squad that can jump straight into MLS and compete. No expansion side has made the playoffs at the first attempt since the Sounders did in 2009, and that will undoubtedly be the aim for both of this year’s new sides in 2017.

Atlanta have splashed the cash to build a team that, on paper at least, looks good enough to earn a place in the postseason at the first attempt. Former Barcelona head coach Tata Martino is the man in the hotseat tasked with getting a talented young group of players to deliver on their preseason promise. Three south American Designated Players have been signed – all under the age of 23, with each expected to get fans off their seats from the first whistle.

They’ll be plenty of fans in those seats too, given the fact Atlanta have already sold a staggering 30,000 season tickets before a ball has been kicked. Expansion sides tend to flatter to deceive in their first campaigns, but Atlanta looks like the sort of team ready to make a real splash.

By stark contrast, Minnesota United have been much more careful in terms of spending. They have not signed a single DP ahead of the opening weekend, with any big spending likely to take place in the summer once the squad has found its feet. Instead, Targeted Allocation Money has been spent to build the squad, along with some clever trading to bring in the likes of Johan Venegas and Kevin Molino. Molino in particular is expected to shine under former Lions boss Adrian Heath, who has his second chance to get an expansion side into the playoffs at the first attempt this season.

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The Loons have also kept a host of names from their NASL days, and they now have to hope that their trust in those players pays off in what is sure to be a fiercely competitive Western Conference. There have been some suggestions that this Minnesota side will be one of the worst in MLS history, but they look to have enough about them to prove those critics wrong.

Standout Signings

As always, there have been a host of changes to squads over the course of preseason. But unlike any other year, MLS clubs have started to look for younger talent as it has become clear all 22 sides are starting to prioritise longer-term goals. Atlanta’s trio of young DPs have already been mentioned, but they weren’t the only side to splash the cash on younger Designated Players this winter. FC Dallas have added striker Cristian Colman, Real Salt Lake have landed Albert Rusnak, Vancouver have brought in Yordy Reyna and Sporting Kansas City have moved to sign Gerso Fernandes. All of those names are sure to make an impression in 2017, along with a host of more ‘traditional’ DPs that have joined the league, although the following five are all still under the age of 30.

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LA Galaxy have added some raw pace by bringing in Roman Alessandrini from Marseille, NYCFC have added creativity by signing Maxi Moralez to replace Frank Lampard and Chicago have added firepower by bringing in Nemanja Nikolic. On top of that Portland have signed Sebastian Blanco, while Fredy Montero is back in MLS after four seasons abroad. He has joined the Vancouver Whitecaps and will be hoping to pick up where he left off with Seattle, where he scored 47 goals in 119 regular season games.

What’s for certain is that the new DP signings will give MLS a fresh feel in 2017. More quality should mean more entertainment and more goals. Oh, and more selection dilemmas for MLS Fantasy managers…

Emerging Stars

With MLS getting younger this year, there will be plenty of focus on some of the league’s emerging talents. Some were here last season and left an impression, while others are looking to prove their worth as early as possible. The average age of squads in MLS this season is now 26.3, with FC Dallas boasting the youngest squad with an average age of 24.31. Walker Zimmerman will look to continue his improvement as an MLS defender, but will also be hoping to make an impression on the international stage if he can keep getting better. Elsewhere, the likes of LA Galaxy’s Sebastian Lletget and NYCFC’s Jack Harrison will be looking to have breakout seasons so long as they can nail down regular starting roles.

Jack Harrison, MLS: NYCFC vs. LA Galaxy

Cody Cropper will be hoping this is the year he can become a standout goalkeeper. He had struggled for game time in England in the past but is now in New England, where he’ll expect to impress. While in New York, Sean Davis has the seemingly impossible task of trying to fill the void left by Dax McCarty’s departure to Chicago. But he should be giving the time on the field to prove his worth and will be looking to help lead the Red Bulls to the top of the East once more.

Who Will Be MVP?

As with any season, making a prediction like this before the first ball has even been kicked is brave stupid, but why not do it again? There are a host of new unpredictabilities all over the league this year but the same star names will expect to be challenging at the top end of the scoring charts, and for the MVP award too as a result. Sebastian Giovinco was probably shocked not to pick up the 2016 MLS MVP award, with David Villa instead scooping that award, and both attackers will once again be tipped to dominate defences from day one.

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Strikers have dominated the MVP award over the past five seasons, but playmakers such as Diego Valeri, Ignacio Piatti and Sacha Kljestan will fancy their chances of making a case for the honour if they can have standout campaigns.

But it’s impossible to overlook Giovinco. The Atomic Ant has scored 39 goals and picked up 31 assists in 61 regular season games and is arguably the greatest player to ever play in Major League Soccer. If he stays healthy, he’s surely going to be MVP.

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Who Will Win MLS Cup?

The only thing that’s even more brave stupid to predict than the MVP is picking the team that will lift MLS Cup nine months on from now. But hey, why not give that a go too? The way the Sounders marched to MLS Cup glory last season from a seemingly lost position in the summer was incredible, but is unlikely to be repeated this term given the increased competition and quality in the league. No side has retained the trophy for four seasons but the Sounders still have the tools at their disposal to put up a strong defence. LA Galaxy are usually in the mix but they are set for a transitional year and don’t look to be in a position to go and get their hands on a sixth title this year.

MLS Cup Final 2016 - Toronto vs Seattle Sounders

What does look likely is that the winner will come from the Western Conference for the eighth time in nine seasons. FC Dallas have still never lifted MLS Cup, which seems insane considering they’ve finished top of the West for two-straight seasons. They have all the tools to go all the way this year. Mauro Diaz is out for the first four months of the new season, which is a huge blow, but he’ll be back at a key time of the season and will be able to help Oscar Pareja’s men go all the way in 2017.

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Vancouver Whitecaps also look like contenders this year, as the addition of Montero should make them much more of a force this term. Toronto FC were one shootout away from winning the title last term, and if Giovinco and Jozy Altidore can remain healthy for the majority of the campaign, they will likely be there or thereabouts again.

Don Garber: MLS has ‘total belief’ in latest expansion franchise Minnesota United FC

Major League Soccer Commissioner Don Garber strongly believes that the latest expansion franchise to be revealed, Minnesota United FC, will succeed as they represent everything that is spurring the growth of MLS.

Minnesota United FC were officially announced as the league’s 23rd expansion franchise on Wednesday afternoon and will enter the league by 2018 at the latest.

It’s a fascinating turnaround of fortunes for Minnesota United, who currently play in the NASL, as the club almost ceased from existence two years ago.

Uncertainty had surrounded soccer in Minnesota for years and after changing team names, league’s and ownership several times, Dr. Bill McGuire came in to save the club in November 2012.

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“[The owners] are totally committed,” Garber said at Wednesday’s expansion announcement from Target Field. “They love this game, they love this city and they’ve got a great plan for a building.

“They represent exactly what we want and what we need to continue this momentum that we have, that’s really stimulating the growth of our league.”

Don’t Miss: EXCLUSIVE: Minnesota United’s ‘Dark Clouds’ on MLS dream

Garber and the people at the top of the MLS pyramid chose Minnesota as the 23rd expansion franchise despite solid bids from Sacramento Republic, Las Vegas and a second one from Minnesota headed by the NFL’s Vikings ownership.

And the decision to award the latest MLS expansion slot to Minnesota United FC is something the MLS Commissioner thinks will go down as a great one.

“We have total belief in the Twin Cities. This is a market that is young, that is diverse, that has more people riding their bicycles around than they do in Brooklyn, and Brooklyn is a pretty hip place.

“It has an incredible international flair too. It is a city that represents all of the things that we have been able to capitalize on that are allowing our league to be a sport for a new America. It’s diverse, it’s young and it is empowered by people who are the next generation of great sports fans.”

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United are set to enter MLS in time for the start of the 2018 season but could come in a year earlier, depending on developments with LAFC and their stadium plans, though Garber admitted that the date of entry had nothing to do with David Beckham’s proposed Miami franchise.

“It could be as early as 2017. We have a number of moving pieces. That’s part of the dynamic with a young sports league. The target is no later than ‘18 and it could be as early as 2017.

“Los Angeles is coming into our league and they are either ’17 or ’18 and Minnesota will be either ’17 or ’18. It’s not related to Miami.”

Will Minnesota United FC take MLS by storm when they enter the league in the next three years?

EXCLUSIVE: Minnesota United’s ‘Dark Clouds’ on MLS dream

Minnesota United FC are set to become the latest Major League Soccer expansion franchise when MLS Commissioner Don Garber and United owner Dr. Bill McGuire make the announcement on Wednesday afternoon, and that means another set of passionate supporters are set to enter the league too.

Minnesota United’s largest and oldest supporters group is the Dark Clouds and they have followed the team through thick and thin since they were formed in 2004. They are delighted that the club is finally on its way into MLS and cannot wait for the next era.

“It’s hard not to see the place in MLS as vital,” the Dark Clouds’ President Jim Oliver told MLSGB’s Louis East. “Minnesota’s had second division soccer for going on 26 years now, so we’ve had a team to support for a long time and have managed to survive through lean economic times and fraudsters for owners.
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“Despite that long history though, the competition for getting the rights to the MLS franchise in Minnesota might have put another club in United’s geographic area, which would have spelled doom for our club. That’s why it was so important for United to go for the MLS spot, and why we’re so pleased that our owner Dr. McGuire and his partners were willing to make the commitment.”

Some members of the Dark Clouds have been waiting for as long as two decades for their MLS dream to come true so the fact that United are set to become the league’s 23rd club is certainly something they’ve earned.

“MLS has been around for 20 years, so there’s definitely some among us who’ve been waiting that long,” Oliver added.

“Honestly we’ve been happy to support a lower-division club since the founding of the Dark Clouds 12 years ago, but nobody can say that you don’t dream of the quality players, stadiums and competition that the top flight provides.

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“For the Dark Clouds, we’re excited about all the attention MLS will bring and how it’ll help us to expand the charitable work that our group does. We’ve supported local soccer-related causes for years, and it’ll be great to hopefully turn that trickle of volunteerism and cash donation into a flood.”

Minnesota United’s official website claims: “We are industrious and built around the idea that hard work yields the greatest rewards. We are strong and getting stronger. We are United.”

More of those rewards are just around the corner now. An MLS franchise could enter the league within the next three years and United fans will hope to dominate in the top flight the same way they have done in the NASL over the past four years.

The NASL started it’s second chapter in 2011, and Minnesota United won the championship at the end of that first season. United then won the NASL Spring Championship last season and will look to enter MLS in style by continuing to dominate the second-tier of US Soccer until then.

Minnesota United celebrate winning the 2014 NASL Spring Championship (Photo: NASL.com)

Minnesota United celebrate winning the 2014 NASL Spring Championship (Photo: NASL.com)

“We’re expecting big things from United,” Oliver continued. “The ownership group has show a commitment to really raise the level even in the second division, bringing in great players and staff and systems that kept us firmly on top of the table last year.”

“There’s no other second division club in this country that commits resources to things like preseason tours (England last year and Brazil this year) and signings on the level we’ve seen from United in recent years. Dr. McGuire wants a dominant side and he’s done what it takes to build one. We can’t wait to see that in MLS.”

Are you looking forward to seeing Minnesota United enter MLS as the latest expansion franchise?