Sam Nicholson, 22, is a youth international in Scotland. After being unimpressed by Heart of Midlothian FC’s first offer for a contract renewal, he’s been whisked away to speak with Minnesota United FC brass. Minnesota’s interest was first reported by The Scottish Sun.
Nicholson first signed with Hearts’ youth system in 2007, then just 12 years old. He made his senior debut in 2013 and was a regular starter by 2014. In four seasons, he made 109 league appearances and scored 14 goals. He missed 16 games in 2016-17 with a knee injury.
Nicholson is a left winger with very little experience at other positions. Naturally right-footed, he does well to tuck inside and cut to the center of the field. This tends to line up with Adrian Heath’s system, where wing players need to remain flexible. His ability on the ball and shooting from distance makes up for his still-developing ability to send in crosses.
Currently a free agent, Nicholson’s contract with Hearts expires at the end of the month. However, given MLS roster rules he won’t be able to officially join the team until July 10. Still, the club could announce his signing as soon as contract terms are agreed to, if the fit is right.
Per MLS rules and regulations:
Teams can announce incoming transfers and trades outside of the transfer windows whenever the paperwork is official, but a player cannot officially be put on a club’s roster until his International Transfer Certificate (ITC) is transferred, which must happen within one of the two transfer windows. Although players cannot participate in an official MLS game until their ITC is transferred, they are able to participate in preseason.
First of all, this is a sign that Minnesota isn’t content with its attacking depth. In its 1-0 win over Orlando City, the only attacking Loon on the bench was midfielder Collin Martin. Abu Danladi is out injured again and loanee Bashkim Kadrii has been out of favor for a month. Still, Nicholson couldn’t join Minnesota’s roster for just over a month.
Look toward New York City FC’s Jack Harrison for an MLS comparison. The pacey winger can cause headaches for the opposition with his ability to beat a defender one-on-one. However, Nicholson still needs to improve his decision-making in the final third. He tends to hesitate before shooting or making a final pass. That said, Heath and Ian Fuller have done well to aide in Christian Ramirez, Miguel Ibarra, and Danladi’s decisiveness this year.
Callum Carson (a football writer in Scotland) had this to say about the target:
“(He’s a) tricky winger who’s able to score goals. A bit injury-prone but a talented player. He’s not quite reached the level he should have by now to be honest, but at 22 he certainly has time on his side. Hearts are a pretty stable Prem side, so I’d imagine he’d be a decent squad addition for MNUFC. However, he’s certainly not a guaranteed starter for me.”
Nicholson would bolster Minnesota’s depth, and there’d be no rush for him to start right away. While the knee injury is a red flag, it was the first time he missed much action in the Scottish Premiership. If he can find his footing and stay fit, here’s how I’d line Minnesota up:
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