Despite Minnesota United coming back from a two-goal deficit early in the second half, last week’s game in Indy was a performance the team will hope to soon forget. Adding insult to injury, left back and captain Justin Davis was called for a second yellow card just outside of the box. The immediate impact was notable–Indy’s Nicki Paterson converted the free kick and Davis was ejected from the game on a red card. However, Davis will now be serving his suspension as Minnesota United plays the first of a critical three-game stretch.
While Davis has been wearing the captain’s armband for the majority of the season (I’d expect Juliano Vicentini, Jeb! Brovsky, or a cameo start by Tiago Calvano to assume that role), the bigger void will be on his traditional left-hand side. Davis has been the best left back in NASL over the past two years and his absence will be sorely missed against a Tampa Bay Rowdies side which relies so heavily on play from their wings.
While it was a bit of a running joke during the offseason, the Rowdies have an unparalleled arsenal of wingers at their disposal. Former Loon Kalif Alhassan (#11) contributed an assist last week, while Junior Burgos (#33) and Joe Cole (#26) were just as persistent. The right side of the field has been locked down in recent weeks due to the strong combination of Danny Cruz and Kevin Venegas, but the left side has been less reliable thus far.
Take Davis out of the equation and things get even dicier.
During a busy off-season, United filled many holes but notably didn’t sign a single fullback despite the retirement of longtime Minnesota footballer Brian Kallman. Grant Bell was brought in for a trial and traveled with the team to Mexico during the preseason but has not been signed by the full side. Given the current roster, there are three potential candidates to fill the gap.
Laing has not seen starting time with United over the past couple of weeks but came on as a substitute against Indy. Historically, Laing has played left back in a pinch in his time up in Edmonton. The winger would likely drift forward more often than not, with his recovery speed helping to close down counter attacks. With a more technical left winger like Bernardo Añor in front of him, the pair could work effectively for a spot-start.
Brovsky saw the majority of his time in New York City at left back. However, this was more out of necessity and lack of squad-depth than his own best positioning. Brovsky has solidified the Loons’ midfield, allowing for players like Añor, Ben Speas, Cruz, and Vicentini to focus more on the offensive side of the game. Moving him to left back wouldn’t be bad as far as shoring up the backline; that said, losing him in the midfield may do more harm than good given his reliable play at the position.
To me, he’s the best choice of the three. Hear me out.
When Jome was signed by Minnesota, he figured to stay up front as he had for his high school career, serving as a potential sub for Christian Ramirez or Stefano Pinho. However, Jome impressed Carl Craig with his ability to cross the ball as well as his grit in defense. Craig rates Jome to have a higher ceiling at left back than many players that he’s coached. With this in mind, it makes sense to give the young player a chance to crack the lineup while the season is young.
— Leo (@LeoLeclercq) April 1, 2016
With repeated reps, it’ll be easier to see where Jome best profiles for this club before the summer transfer window opens. If it doesn’t pan out in the first half, it’s always possible to make adjustments: send Brovsky or Laing to left back, and either play Jome up top or bring in a central midfielder. If it does work, however, it would do wonders to calm worries about depth along the back line, not to mention boosting a young player’s confidence.
First goal was comical. Tragic, but comical. Shades of the Carolina goal in the opener.
Tags: Minnesota United FC