The 2022 MLS campaign has long been over and the unforgiving nature of the single-elimination Audi MLS Cup Playoffs sends another six clubs to the offseason after Round One, joining 14 clubs that missed the postseason.
Here, we'll be covering three questions for every team moving forward. Think of it as an exit interview, if you will. Matt Doyle, as always, has you covered on his preeminent season-in-review for each club (Minnesota version). Read that, too.
He has gifs. It’s tough to beat gifs.
Minnesota United have made the playoffs four seasons in a row. They have been a solid team. They made the 2020 Western Conference Final along the way. The Loons have one of the league’s very best players (No. 10 Emanuel Reynoso).
This year had its moments, but they didn’t quite push to the top tier of the conference, particularly once center back Bakaye Dibassy went down injured near the end of the season.
They finished two points above the West's playoff line with a -3 goal differential. How can they push on in 2023?
Reynoso is a wonderful starting point. They try to accentuate his strengths and play through him. That is smart. They have put solid pieces around him (like Robin Lod and Franco Fragapane) but haven’t yet found a second star. It’s not for a lack of trying, but no one has transcended in attack with Reynoso.
Can this be solved internally? If Dibassy (and Romain Metanire) never got injured, maybe the defense finishes much stronger and the attack would have less to do. Reynoso is a one-man show, after all. Or can Mender Garcia become the second star? Is there another level for Luis Amarilla?
Or will they try externally with another new big attacking signing? TBD. They can open a DP spot by buying down Garcia.
The Loons’ impending end-of-season roster update comes with a bunch of big decisions.
Metanire played just 22 minutes this year due to injury, but had started most games since being signed in 2019. The Madagascar international, turning 33 in March, was an All-Star that year.
Gonzalez is a former USYNT standout who switched to represent Mexico, but only made one start after arriving at the club just ahead of the Secondary Transfer Window deadline. Rosales made eight starts this year.
Miller is an interesting one, as he’s been a starting goalkeeper in this league for years but Dayne St. Clair won the job. They could pick up his option and keep him as insurance/try to trade him, or let him walk to free up cap space.
Lod is a versatile attacker. He’s naturally a winger. He can play on either side. But he can also play through the middle as a central attacking midfielder… as well as a center forward. There was a stretch this spring where he scored in three consecutive starts up top.
It turns out Lod is also a very good No. 8. As injuries piled up, Lod spent about a dozen games playing in central midfield, at a level so when players returned from injury, Lod started the playoff game in central midfield anyway.
What’s the plan for next year? That determines where they’ll focus their resources on other additions. Versatility is extremely useful, regardless of which direction they go, as Lod can play almost anywhere. But what will be Plan A?
If the Finland international is destined for the midfield, they probably need another winger. That also will impact whether or not Gonzalez/Rosales return.