Minnesota United FC sign Justin Davis, Kevin Venegas as first MLS players

Justin Davis in action for Minnesota United FC - 11/4/16

Minnesota United FC made a bit of club history on Thursday, when they announced that they’ve signed defenders Justin Davis and Kevin Venegas as the first MLS players in club history.

Both Davis and Venegas have spent several years with Minnesota in NASL, with Davis playing for the Loons since 2011 and Venegas joining the club in 2012. Both players will make the jump with the team as they transition into MLS for the inaugural 2017 season in the league.

Minnesota soccer website FiftyFive.One reported in early November that both Davis and Venegas would be signed to MLS deals. The club announced in January that they had signed both to long-term contracts, though they didn’t confirm that either would join the team in MLS until Thursday.

Davis, 28, has appeared in a club record 169 games since joining Minnesota in 2011, scoring nine goals and providing 12 assists across all competitions. A NASL Best XI selection at left back in 2014, 2015 and 2016, Davis helped Minnesota to back-to-back appearances in the NASL final and a league championship in 2012.

“It's an exciting time for soccer here in Minnesota and I'm honored to be able to continue my career with this club,” Davis said in a statement released by the club. “Minnesota has been my only professional club and I look forward to helping the club succeed at the next level. Kevin [Venegas] and I have worked extremely hard to get to these points in our careers and I know we are excited for the new challenges in a new league.”

“One of the most important things is that Justin is someone that has believed in Minnesota soccer for a long time,” added Minnesota head coach Adrian Heath. “Justin has believed in what the club has done over the past few years. It’s a great opportunity for him to prove himself at the next level of professional soccer in the U.S.”

Venegas, 27, joined Minnesota in 2012. Capable of playing as a midfielder or a right back, Venegas is the club’s all-time leader with 17 career assists and has recorded seven goals during his five years with the Loons. He was named to the 2015 NASL Best XI as a right back.

“I've been wanting to bring my style of play to Major League Soccer for as long as I can remember,” Venegas said in Minnesota’s statement. “I'm very appreciative that Minnesota has invested in me and supplied me with a home from NASL to now MLS. It has been a priority in my mindset going into the gym, practice, game or any competition since day 1. I'm not nervous, I'm excited to make the jump! I know it will be a challenge but that's what I live for!  I have some decent experience now, but I feel a new energy, at age 27 I'm a rookie and a vet.”

“Kevin is extremely gifted athletically, he has great footwork,” said Heath. “He’s got the experience and now he has the chance to play at the next level.  He has the ability to play and we are confident he can make the step up.”

Both Davis and Venegas were drafted by MLS clubs out of college. Davis was selected in the second round of the 2010 SuperDraft by Real Salt Lake and Venegas was picked in in the 2012 Supplemental Draft by Chivas USA, though neither hung around beyond their initial preseasons in MLS.