Sam Cronin and Kellyn Acosta battle for ball 7.23.16
Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Minnesota United hail newcomer Sam Cronin as a player to "build around"

BLAINE, Minn. — On Friday, Minnesota United FC made a big move to bolster their defense by acquiring holding midfielder Sam Cronin and left back Marc Burch in a major deal that sent Mohammed Saeid and Joshua Gatt to Colorado, as well as a 2019 third-round SuperDraft pick to Chicago in exchange for the waiver priority needed to land Cronin.

While the main action on the deal took place over a two-week window, the pursuit of Cronin goes back much further than that. In fact, head coach Adrian Heath, director of player personnel Amos Magee and sporting director Manny Lagos all saw him as a cornerstone of the expansion club from the start.

“All three of us had him on the list as a guy that you build your team around,” Magee told MLSsoccer.com on Tuesday. “We inquired with Colorado prior to the Expansion Draft and were reasonably close, but couldn’t quite figure it out. After our trip to Colorado, Manny and [Rapids sporting director] Padraig Smith got to talking.”

The Minnesota technical staff thinks Cronin checks all the boxes. As a domestic player with 19,535 minutes of MLS experience and a postseason pedigree, Cronin brings a crucial element of composure to the locker room. For a Loons side that has conceded 20 goals in their first five MLS games, having that kind of veteran savvy is invaluable.

Likewise, Burch adds as much off the field as he does on it. Burch has played over 15,000 minutes in the league himself, having suited up for five teams prior to coming to Minnesota. He started 27 games for the Rapids last season, anchoring the stingiest defense in the league.

So it's fair to say that adding Burch was a lot more than just a consolation prize — even if he may have to fight to earn playing time.

“Burchie, with the way he’s played and transformed his body recently, has a couple years of soccer left in him, too,” Magee said. “The idea is that we already have a capable left back in Justin Davis that we’re all very comfortable with, as well. They can give Burchie minutes if need be.”

Minnesota may also have a logjam in the midfield with Cronin, Collen Warner, Ibson, Rasmus Schüller and Collin Martin battling for minutes — which Magee called “champagne selection issues.”

Still, the Loons exec insisted the club is not done making moves, recognizing that improvements may still be needed even after Saturday's 4-2 win over Real Salt Lake.

“If we can find more moves to improve our side like this one did, we’ll obviously do it,” Magee said. “We feel very good about our group right now. As much as the first month was hard on everyone here, we knew we weren’t that bad. On the other hand, we also know Salt Lake is reeling a little bit, so we’re not that good.”

Some observers think Minnesota could use an upgrade at the center back slot. But Magee maintains that's not a glaring need at this point.

“Certainly, it’s been a tough adjustment to Vadim [Demidov] to MLS,” he said. “We have a good young guy in Joe Greenspan who’s getting healthy again. Jermaine Taylor came in against New England and did quite well, he’s finally got his legs under him.

“We’ve got a lot of options. Again, if we found an unbelievable option that would fit in, we’d do that. We’d do that with any position.”

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