With Minnesota United’s first MLS offseason reaching the start of its third week, there’s been a notable lack of news trickling out from the organization. The team has no coaches, no players, and it appears that Sporting Director Manny Lagos is the lone employee on the technical side confirmed for the future.
Last week, we reported that veteran full backs Justin Davis and Kevin Venegas would be their first signings for MLS. The club has yet to announce this news officially. There aren’t any other signings that appear to be imminent, whether they’re players from the NASL roster or beyond.
However, there’s reason to believe that announcements are imminent for United. There are two figures who are clear front-runners for the 2017 coaching staff. Another two candidates seem to be joining the technical ranks in some capacity.
On Sunday, Gio Savarese won his third NASL Championship in four seasons at the helm of the New York Cosmos. Serving as both the head coach and technical director, Savarese has been able to build a club that both values veteran contributions and youth development.
What kind of coach would Gio Savarese be for Minnesota United? We broke down his style and pedigree here.
Over the last week, it’s become clear that he’s a primary target for the head coaching vacancy in Minnesota. One industry executive claimed that it was very likely that Savarese would join Minnesota, and secondhand sources thought it to be a “done deal.”
From here, the timeline on an announcement becomes murky. Speaking about his future in October, Savarese gave a strong non-answer. “I think MLS is always an interesting possibility for any coach. But right now, my main focus is on the team and trying to win the semi-final. When we finish, we will start looking at next year and what is going to be available.”
Meanwhile, the Cosmos confirmed to FiftyFive.One that United has yet to reach out for permission to negotiate with the coach. Another source believes that Savarese has also received interest from clubs in Europe. What’s clear is that it was not just the Cosmos’ playoff involvement that was causing a delay. Realistically, it may be weeks before a deal could be agreed upon.
UPDATE: Within seconds of publishing this article, Dave Martinez with the Empire of Soccer reported: “Sources tell EoS that Adrian Heath, formerly of Orlando City SC, is all but set to take the reigns with the Loons.” Hang on to your hats, kids, it’s crazy time.
In other news, multiple sources have pointed to Marius Rovde as United’s goalkeeper coach for 2017. Rovde served in the same role for the Vancouver Whitecaps from 2011-2016. Among the feathers in his cap: helping Joe Cannon set the MLS record for most minutes without conceding a goal in 2012; overseeing David Ousted’s development into a perennial Goalkeeper of the Year nominee; and working with the academy to produce some of Canada’s finest goalkeeping prospects.
Vancouver announced Rovde’s departure at the end of the 2016 season. Rovde himself confirmed this on From The Backline podcast. He went on to say that he was going to sign with another Western Conference team, ruling out Seattle, Portland, and FC Dallas. Our sources are confident that the club he’s referring to is United, and he would be a strong addition to the team’s ranks.
Over the last two weeks, sources have confirmed that both Amos Magee and Tom Soehn have been in Minnesota to meet with the club. However, it is unclear just what each role each is being considered for. Soehn may be in contention for the head coach position, while both seem like contenders for a front office role that would accompany Manny Lagos in roster building.
ESPN’s Jeff Carlisle, who wrote that Magee’s move was close to complete, said that Magee would be in line for a director of player personnel role. However, sources have indicated that hiccups in negotiations may make that less than a sure bet.
A decision on the director of player personnel does seem imminent. Soon, fans will be able to greet at least one new face that will be helping prepare for next month’s expansion draft (as well as other player recruitment).
Magee is no stranger to the Minnesota area. Magee earned his Masters in Public Affairs from the University of Minnesota. He also played for the Minnesota Thunder from 1992-2003, and managed the Thunder from 2006-2008. Since then, he’s worked as an assistant for the Portland Timbers and D.C. United, holding the latter post since 2014.
Soehn, too, has local ties. The former MLS defender managed D.C. United from 2007-2009 and the Vancouver Whitecaps from 2011-2012 before stepping down. In 2013, he was named the Director of Soccer Development and Recruiting for the National Sports Center in Blaine. There, he was responsible for team marketing and recruitment for Schwan’s USA Cup. Since 2014, he’s been an assistant coach for the New England Revolution.
All four candidates would combine for a smart balance of ambition and league experience. Savarese has cut his chops in the second division for four years, proving his mettle while building a very respectable academy in New York. Rovde is a beloved figure in Vancouver off the field, and his ability to refine goalkeeping talent has been crucial to the Caps’ success. Magee and Soehn bring both a knowledge of the region and key experience in Major League Soccer, helping with the transition into the top flight.
It’s only a matter of time before figures, whether they’re the aforementioned quartet or other names, start to solidify in Minnesota United’s ranks.
Wes Burdine, Brian Quarstad, and Alex Schieferdecker contributed to this report.