ST. PAUL, Minn. — Minnesota United FC often found themselves overshadowed by fellow expansion team Atlanta United in 2017. With the new stadium in St. Paul coming together, the challenge is now for the front office and technical staff to improve the on-field product.
Fresh off a scouting trip to Colombia with assistant coach Mark Watson, Loons sporting director Manny Lagos spoke to the media at Tuesday’s steel column raising ceremony at under-construction Allianz Field. He was circumspect about signings and specific changes for next season, but he made one thing very clear: 2017 was not good enough.
For their first season in MLS, Minnesota focused on players from northern Europe whose schedule and quality of play were assumed to translate well to MLS. This focus on Scandinavian players was in part due to MNUFC’s tight time schedule.
“We had to build a team in less than 6 weeks,” Lagos explained. “We certainly tried to make sure we signed players from markets we thought would translate. Some did and some didn't.”
When pressed to share how the team was changing their scouting practices for 2018, Lagos wasn’t willing to divulge much about Minnesota’s plans but instead praised the league as a whole, saying MLS “is starting to build and grow its networks to try look throughout the world for talent.”
A trip in November to Colombia shows the team is preparing for a busy, challenging offseason by looking further afield for potential signings.
“It's important that we make some real, tough decisions for the good of the club,” Lagos said in response to a question about the coming offseason windows and deadlines for roster changes. “We're in that process right now.“
Proud of the fact that the team “got better from the beginning of the year to the end of the year,” Lagos feels the team has a solid core of players with which to build their 2018 roster around. With that core in place, he says, Minnesota can continue to “be a club that will always be aggressive in taking risks and try to get a reward.“
The Loons added another chapter to their club’s storybook journey this year, but Lagos refuses to stand pat.
“We believe that our accomplishments in 2017 aren't good enough,” he said, “and we have to get better.”