Last week, Minnesota United brought in full back Chris Klute on a loan from the Portland Timbers. Now in his second week with the club, he’s ready to carve out a place in the squad for the NASL season’s home stretch.
A veteran of 79 MLS matches since 2013, Klute was brought in to shore up a backline that’s been hit by injuries over the course of the 2016 campaign. A true two-way player, Klute figures to be a solid complement to incumbent fullbacks Justin Davis and Kevin Venegas as well as Jeb Brovsky, who’s filled in out wide during Venegas’s absence.
Klute’s biggest asset may very well be his pace. Ben Speas (who played with Klute in Columbus last season) says it can really change a game. “He’s one of the fastest players I’ve played with. His closing speed is crazy. He’s a good defender, and I think he can be effective with us.”
Here’s a taste of what Klute can do. Capable with the ball, Klute gets past his mark to lob in a cross. He has the awareness to pick a defender’s pocket while they’re settling a ball, getting the ball back in the box to create another chance.
“I can bring experience to the club,” Klute said after Friday’s training. “I’ve been in MLS and have played against some of the bigger names. Just focusing on our knowledge, communication. I’m looking to get back to full throttle, just kinda put it to the pedal. I want to be able to play consistently again and get in the mix.”
Klute isn’t a stranger to NASL play, having been with the late Atlanta Silverbacks for 12 matches in 2012. He recognizes that the league has stepped up a level since then, saying that “there’s better quality, better organization across the league” over the past four seasons. Although he’s a left back primarily, he mostly played on the right during his time in Columbus.
“Ultimately, I just want to be consistent going forward and also being a good defender. It seems like outside backs in America — in MLS and NASL — are focused on going forward. That’s the biggest thing for me as far as standing out. I’ll play wherever the coach needs me out there.”
United had a season-high 28 players in training today as the squad gets closer to full fitness. Notably, winger Danny Cruz was back to full fitness and is set to return to the squad tomorrow against Ottawa after missing the past few weeks. Venegas was also in full participation and looked sharp at right back.
Greg Jordan and Bernardo Añor continued their recovery processes from a knee injury and an ankle injury, respectively. Both spent time on the ball and were doing conditioning training but didn’t participate in 7v7 contact drills.
On the team’s loss to New York last week: “Second half, I thought we looked the better team. Jimmy Maurer probably never makes that many crucial saves again, and that kid (David Diosa) probably doesn’t score that goal again, either. I was happier with the second half. I still thought we were a threat and had enough chances to win it. We should’ve.”
Looking to Ottawa: “They’re a different team, for certain. They’re a difficult team to beat this year. They’re not winning, but they aren’t losing either. It speaks about their tenacity, I suppose. They typically play with a 3-1-4-2 or a 3-5-2, which presents a different type of challenge. I’m not gonna fall into the trap of thinking ‘we did this last week against New York and we’re at home with a sellout crowd,’ because I think we fell flat with that mentality against Miami earlier this year. If we go out and think we can go and just do whatever the heck we want, we’ll get shocked.”
On the lineup and gameplan: “We make little tweaks to how we’ll go out before every game. Paul (Dalglish) has made a seismic shift lately going to a 4-4-2, so it’ll be interesting. Hopefully with some adjustments, we can accommodate and look better. I think if we threw three or four different guys in, it throws an illusion that we haven’t done well. We’ve done alright, but we’ve gotta start again. For guys coming back, we’re going to ease them into it. We just need to take care of business.”
On the team’s chances down the stretch: “I was reminded of this, and it’s strange really — eight games left, we’re still very much in a position where we can win the championship. Not an easy task, of course, but there’s enough points in the bag where we can do it. We might need New York to slip up. First, we need the three points tomorrow or else we won’t secure a playoff spot. Provided we take care of business early enough, we can think about the championship. It’s just three points and three points and three points. As long as we can do that, we’re in business.”