Read all of our 2023 season guidelines for every MLS team eliminated from the postseason here.
An exciting season for Minnesota ended with a Decision Day upset and their first season without a playoff appearance since 2018.
Emmanuel Reynoso’s absence for the first few months of the season marred the campaign, as did injuries. Then, with two games to go, the club let go of head coach Adrian Heath, the only coach the club has known in their MLS career.
The short version: Heath meant a lot to this club. Where does he go now?
Minnesota United has a first chance at reinvention.
List of names
Head Coach: Sean McAuley (Interim, from 2023) Chief Football Officer: Manny Lagos (2016)
Minnesota built their offensive identity around Reynoso as much as they should in the playoffs. He’s one of the best chance-makers in the league and nearly led them to the MLS title in 2020 with a run to the conference finals that came up short in the postseason.
Teemu Puki scored 10 goals in more than 1,000 MLS minutes, finally solving the club’s long-standing goal-scoring need. If he and Reynoso are fit, there’s no reason to expect less than 15 goals next season.
Forward Bongi Hlongwe has been featured this year. Midfielder Robin Hood is criminally underrated and his injury is probably the difference that has made this club miss the finals. Right there is a square, strong and balanced attack.
Goaltender Dayne St. Clair at his best, although he’s struggled a bit with consistency this year, can win points on his own. Still, he’s a solid MLS goaltender on a reasonable contract. Mexican centre-back Miguel Tapias was an immediate starter, a much-needed injection of youth into the defence.
Well, Reynoso missed the first 16 games of the season due to a personal situation in his native Argentina. That was not ideal.
The Loons and left linebacker Kemar Lawrence agreed to a contract extension in the summer, one of the persistent problems at fullback that plagued the team late in the season. Designated player Mender Garcia, the forward, has played just 1,029 MLS minutes and scored just three goals. But it can be purchased below the DP level.
Hurt by Lode’s injuries, Minnesota struggled mightily to find a reliable starter from Reynoso (when available). This will continue to be an issue going forward as a balance of attack. Defensive-minded midfielders Hassani Dotson and Joseph Rosales played more minutes as “wings”.
What can change?
The cap sheet looks relatively clean, with few glaringly bad contracts on the club’s books. This should help with the possibility of acquiring Garcia’s cap holder to free up another DP spot, although that purchase would need to be a young DP to secure the three U-22 initiative slots.
Will Trapp, the team’s fourth highest paid midfielder, is out of contract. Veteran defenseman Michael Box has a contract option for 2024.
Minnesota should have plenty of room to make changes under the new regime. First, they need to land a new chief football officer (Heath technically didn’t have that title, but come on, he effectively had that title). Manny Lagos is technically the CSO but the plan is to bring in a new GM and then a new head coach.
Minnesota isn’t among the league’s top spending clubs, but they’re not at the bottom either. They seem to shell out good money for transfer fees every year. They just need to chip in a little more efficiently – Reynoso is a home run hitter and Puckey is a solid starter, and Jan Gregus and Darwin Quintero were good in their prime, but so are the likes of Angelo Rodriguez, Adrian Hune, Luis Amarilla and the like. Thomas Chacon was absent. No team is going to be perfect here, but if Minnesota hits its third DP this year, this team isn’t far from being a contender.
Allianz Field is a great stadium that offers one of the best home field advantages in MLS. The academy, unfortunately, is probably the least productive in the league.
CSO decision, head coach search
As always, these two go hand in hand. Heath and Mark Watson have dominated the sporting structure over the last few years so the club needs a new Chief Football Officer, whether that remains Manny Legos or the first domino of foreign hires.
Then Minnesota must hire their second head coach in their MLS existence.
Heath has done a lot of good things at the helm, including making a consistent run for the playoffs and more or less always being competitive. That’s not a low bar to take for granted, but Minnesota clearly felt it needed to continue to try and take the next step.
Make a decision on Reynoso
Since Reynoso came back from AWOL and missed half the season, it was great. Not at its peak, but certainly enough. Can Minnesota count on him over the next few years? Or should the club take a strong half-season to regain its value and try to move on?
Finding the answer is tricky and tricky. Reynoso’s family and personal life are more important than work so it’s not a very important part of this equation, but from the club’s point of view, this is a decision that needs to be made. Needless to say, it’s huge.
Add new fullbacks and another striker
By the end of the season, Minnesota’s need for a starting left back became apparent. Summer signing Ethan Bristow was too much of a defensive liability to rely on in crunch time. They may need another option at the back to counter DJ Taylor as well.
The good news is you’re not looking for another new DP No. 9 this summer, Puckey is the answer (for now at least). If you want to spend money at that DP position, either a goal-dangerous winger or a dominant central midfielder would make a lot of sense.
(Top photos: Getty Images)