BY: BRUCE McGUIRE
In preseason we constantly heard from national media how Minnesota United was going to be terrible and Atlanta United was going to be great.
But sensible people knew there was no way to judge that until they actually played games.
Now 11 games into a 34-game season, the two teams are pretty much even in the standings. And the new national media articles have changed their tune. Now they’re saying, “Wow, we were wrong about both of them… etc etc etc, blah blah blah.”
Stories from then and now are still both wrong. It’s Kneejerk City out there.
The initial stories should have been about Atlanta’s big spending leading to high expectations, and Minnesota’s slow-to-react team building would cost them out of the starting gate. Nothing more than that.
And now, as Atlanta hits a tough spot and key injuries slow them down, Minnesota has brought in a couple stabilizing veterans and pulled some of the self-inflicted bullets out of their feet.
To these eyes right now, Atlanta is playing at their worst possible and Minnesota is near their best possible, which leads me to believe that Atlanta is the better of the two teams and that over 34 games — not 0, and not 10 — they will prevail.
But again, that’s why they play the games, and I might just be wrong, per usual.
The players from the old team in the NASL have all risen above their expectations by a mile – Christian Ramirez, Ibson, Miguel Ibarra and Brent Kallman — all fantastic.
To improve, Minnesota MUST fix this very thin roster. One or two key injuries, combined with international call-ups, and they just might be right back where they were in weeks 1-4: getting clobbered.
Loons management did not expect to be this thin. They went out and signed 5 veteran players from Europe to go with their MLS and Central American/Caribbean players. But all the European players, except for one, have been a spectacular bust. The good find in the bunch is right fullback Jerome “Jerry” Thiessen.
On the flipside, the underperforming players have put the team salary cap up against the wall. Goalkeeper John Alvbage, centerback Vadim Demidov, midfielder/forward Bashkim Kadrii, and holding midfielder Rasmus Schuller have been pure lousy.
There is a possibility that 1 or some or all of these 4 might come around and contribute to the team before season’s end. They are all getting paid enough that you sure hope so.
Let’s see how the brass fixes the problem this summer. That will tell the story of Minnesota and Atlanta in their inaugural MLS season.
Not long ago I got a phone call from a stranger asking me, “Bruce would you be interested in writing a regular soccer column and developing a new soccer podcast with us?”
And thus began the conversation that lead to this new project we call The Soccer Observers.
My name is Bruce McGuire and for the past 13 years from my basecamp in Minneapolis I have written a soccer blog called du Nord Futbol (dunordfutbol.com), covering the entire world of soccer from whatever angle my heart desired.
As a kid in the mid-70s I took in my first professional soccer when the Kicks arrived in Minnesota at Metropolitan Stadium in Bloomington.
A tiny fire was lit in me that day that hung around like embers at last night’s campfire while soccer in America struggled to stay alive over the next two decades.
Milestones kept marking my desires; attending English soccer games in the late 80s, the USA qualifying for and then playing in the World Cup in Italy in 1990, the birth of a new local team the Minnesota Thunder that same year, the USA hosting the 1994 World Cup, and the beginning of Major League Soccer just two years after that. From then onward my love grew faster and faster, as more things than I could possibly list have happened in our soccer world to bring us to where we are today.
In most ways it feels like it’s just beginning in America, so hop on the bandwagon cuz we’re in for great ride.
Your FIF (Friend In Football),