MLS first kick is six months away and Manny Lagos is turning to Scandinavia to start filling out Minnesota United FC’s inaugural MLS squad. The Loons’ Sporting Director will travel from September 23rd to October 2nd, watching at least nine matches in Norway and Sweden.
In an interview with media today, Lagos said he was looking forward to building networks for future scouting as well as working toward 2017 to “build a base of players.” While he did not want to go into specifics, he said “We’ve identified players that we’re going to be looking at, but we’re not at all at the point where we’re talking about signing.”
Lagos said this trip was just the beginning of growing their scouting initiatives over the coming years. More trips would be planned for the coming months, but he said this trip to Norway and Sweden came first because of the weather, but also the chance to scout players who will soon become free agents (contracts will be ending soon, since the seasons end in November).
Scandinavian leagues appeal to the club because of their similarities to MLS both in terms of the level of play but also salaries. Lagos repeatedly mentioned the “value” of players in Norway and Sweden. Lagos dismissed the idea of signing Scandinavian players helping market to the heavily Scandinavian roots of Minnesota. “The value has to be first and foremost on the field,” he said, but recognized that some fans would certainly engage with players who share their heritage.
Lagos commented on American midfielder Josh Gatt, who plays for Molde, recently returning from a long series of ACL injuries: “Obviously Josh has had a tough couple of years but it sounds like he’s healthy. So if there’s a chance to see him play and see what his health is like that would be great.” He also mentioned Cole Grossman, the Stabaek midfielder, as an American on his radar (though he insisted that these are just two players who came to mind). Both Gatt and Grossman are out of contract at the end of 2016.
When asked what his sales pitch would be to get players to come to Minnesota, Lagos said, “We don’t want to pretend and start this off like we’re going to be New York or LA.” However, Lagos said that they can sell players on the quality of life they can have in the Twin Cities.
The trip has nine matches tentatively squeezed in, including Molde against league leaders Rosenborg; Stromsgodset versus Odd, Helsingborg against Hammarby, Stabaek v Lillestrom, and Swedish giants AIK against league leading Norrköping. He is also heading to Denmark to watch FC Copenhagen take on Club Brugge in the Champions League.
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