When Justin Davis came to Minnesota in 2011, he was a college grad who joined a rag-tag group of players on a league-owned team, the NSC Minnesota Stars. Davis had been drafted by Real Salt Lake in the second round of the 2010 SuperDraft, but never secured a contract. That 2011 Stars team went on a dream playoff run and beat the Fort Lauderdale Strikers in the final.
Since 2011, Davis has been a constant at left back with only a few small injuries and a red card or two keeping him out of the lineup. He has twice been named to the NASL Best XI, twice been a Golden Ball (NASL MVP) nominee, leads the club in minutes played, and in 2015 won the Dark Clouds Player of the Year award. The Dark Clouds have a song for Davis that goes: “Justin Davis on the left hand side.”
Like Davis, Kevin “Viva” Venegas came to Minnesota after being drafted (37th overall by Chivas USA) and not picked up in MLS. Viva took more time to lock down a starting place (sometimes shuffling between wing and his more natural right back spot), but since 2014 he has been tearing up the wings for the Loons.
Venegas announced himself to Minnesota fans with a spectacular goal in 2012 that won the league’s Play of the Year. He was named to the NASL Best XI in 2015.
Both players have been the twin pistons of the Minnesota attack for years, often working with wingers who move more centrally who leave space to attack from the back.
Signing Davis and Venegas to their MLS team will be read by the broader public in different ways. Some will read it as a missed opportunity to make a splash by making a bigger name their first signing. However, Davis in particular will be seen to others as a fitting tribute to the long history of soccer in Minnesota, because he is the longest serving current player in the team.
Minnesota United declined to comment on the story. It is believed that they were hoping to have a coaching announcement in place before they began announcing players. Official word of these signings should come in the coming weeks.