Sam Nicholson. Photo by Daniel Mick.

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Minnesota Makes Another Quality Trade, Nicholson for Rapids’ Miller

by on 3 May 2018

In a rather surprising move based on how Minnesota seems to love stockpiling wingers, Minnesota has traded Sam Nicholson and an international spot for the 2018 season to Colorado Rapids for Minnesota native and veteran full back Eric Miller and $50,000 in General Allocation Money (GAM).

Both players seem positive about the move, with Eric Miller in particular very excited to be returning home. He posted a note on twitter about the move that read in part, “There is no one in MLS you could’ve traded for who this means more to. Being Minnesotan and having the opportunity to represent other Minnesotans for a Minnesota team is a dream come true for me.”

Sam Nicholson, for his part, posted on instagram thanking the Minnesota fans and looking positively at the move to Colorado.

Impact for Minnesota

While Minnesota has become thinner at winger after injuries to Kevin Molino and Ethan Finlay, it still remained the one position the team had a plethora of MLS quality players. With Alex Gomez joining the team, Nicholson was not as necessary as before.

Minnesota has struggled to keep their thin full back depth healthy. Both Tyrone Mears and Marc Burch are struggling with injuries, so rookie Carter Manley has had to step in and play big minutes for Minnesota. While valuable experience for the Duke product, he still looked shaky against MLS competition and did not appear to be a long term solution at full back.

Eric Miller comes in as a five year veteran in the league who started 30 matches last year for Colorado. He will help solidify a back line that has struggled against attacks down the wings.

Will Minnesota miss Nicholson?

The short answer? Yes. The longer answer? Not so much.

First, winger was always a position that Minnesota had a lot of depth, and so his absence will not be as deeply felt as say, center back.

Nicholson did possess a number of excellent traits. He was aggressive in the press, which is important in the 4-2-3-1. The 4-2-3-1 gives up some width to put two midfielders in the center of the field. On the wings, it is important to get the opponents to move the ball into the center of the field where Minnesota will usually find itself with a man advantage against most formations in MLS.

But, while his aggressiveness was welcome on a team that in 2017 wasoften too passive without the ball, he could never quite connect offensively with his teammates. In the 4-2-3-1 that Heath favors, a winger needs to be able to create opportunities either with their speed or passing.

Miguel Ibarra has not always been coach Adrian Heath’s preferred player, but his play this year, and injuries to others, has finally given the USMNT player the time to prove his worth. He currently leads the team in assists with three.

Wingers do not have to be the leading scorers on the team, but they need to be able to contribute meaningfully on offense. That is an area that Nicholson never quite found a way to add to Minnesota’s attack on a consistent basis.

Finally, wingers are prime targets for MLS teams to sign as designated players (DP). It is a strong possibility that within the next 12 months Minnesota signs their second DP and that player is a winger.

All in all, this was another great trade for Minnesota. So far in MLS, trading has been very effective for Minnesota, and this will likely follow in that tradition if Miller plays up to expectation.

 

 


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