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Guest Post: Two Defensive Targets for Minnesota United’s Offseason

by on 30 November 2017

Earlier this month, University of Minnesota’s professor Michael Lower invited me to speak to his class “Soccer: Around the World with the Beautiful Game.” One of the projects in the class asked students to come up with a transfer target report for particular teams.

One of those groups put together two transfer targets for Minnesota United FC (that was then passed on to director of player personnel Amos Magee, so you heard it here first). They agreed to let us post their report here. From: Andrew Eggers, Morgan Johnson, Everett Oldenburg, DK Minn, Ki Yoon Bae, Chandler Elsbecker, Yazan Darwish, and Hao Liang.

To develop a valuable transfer strategy for the Loons, we decided to first look at the team’s statistics from their inaugural season in Major League Soccer. The most glaring stat was the amount of goals that the team conceded; they let in the most goals (67) in MLS.

Not only did they concede the most goals, but they also faced the most expected goals (66.3) of any team in the league. No other team in the league came within even 10 xG of the Loons. The Loons also faced the joint second highest number of shots from the center of the field of any team in the league (67%).

The Loons have the second oldest roster in the league and so we would like our big signing to be between the age of 20 and 24. Coupled with the monumental under-performance of Vadim Demidov and the Loons’ ability to sign a designated player, we have decided to focus our transfer efforts on finding a young, talented center back.

We are confident club director of player personnel Amos McGee will be ready to splash the cash on a designated player, since he was transparent about his strategy to delay the signing of a DP. He stated that he would like to see how the core group of players got on before signing a possible DP after the 2017 season.

In regards to specific players, we elected to ignore players from the large European leagues; poaching players of the desired age from these large teams is not realistic. We also want to resist the temptation of older, big-name players from these leagues. We strive to spend within our budget-especially with the new stadium on the way. Below are a pair of players we have uncovered based on their impressive stats (all courtesy of Squawka):

Jurgen Mattheij (24 years old, Dutch)

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For over two seasons, Mattheij has ranked in the top three defenders in the Eredivisie in defensive actions (combined clearances, blocks, and interceptions) per 90 minutes. This is more impressive considering the fact that he has maintained this level of performance even as his team, Excelsior, has continued to rise up the table over the years and are likely facing less defensive pressure than before.

Through 11 games of the 2017/2018 season, he also is first in the league in clearances.Though his current market value is a little high at 800,000 euros, we believe he would be a perfect DP to bring to MLS.

Adam Jackson (23 years old, English)

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In the 2016/2017 season, Jackson ranked in the top 10 defenders in the English Championship in both duels won per 90 minutes and defensive actions per 90 minutes. He was, in fact, second in defensive actions last season with Barnsley. Currently, he leads the English Championship with 3.4 interceptions per game, indicating that last season’s numbers were no joke. He represents a much cheaper option than Mattheij (only 250,000 euros according to transfermarkt). This seems to be an extraordinary value for a player with such good stats.

We believe the Loons should look to sign one of, if not both, of these players in the off season. They are young, high performers who should be looking to take the next step in their career. They will help to fill an obvious need for MNUFC in defense.

 


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