Ike Opara

Loons Calling: How Minnesota United is Exceeding Expectations by Carl Carpenter

Making the step up from the NASL into Major League Soccer can be extremely difficult (commiserations Cincinnati fans), and Minnesota’s first two seasons in MLS are an excellent example of this. Defensively, the Loons struggled to keep the ball out of the net consistently (Statistically the worst defense in the league in 2017, and tied for third worst in 2018). Adrian Heath’s insistence on playing a high-risk/high-reward brand of soccer was seen as extremely foolhardy considering the construction of his roster, and his history of “brand over results” which ultimately cost him his job at Orlando City. 

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Minnesota United FC 2019 Season Preview by Ryan Anderson

I have the unfortunate pleasure of being both a Minnesota United fan and a soccer analytics nerd. MNUFC was bad last year…and the year before that. Historically bad. Despite how genuinely entertaining their home games are to attend, my fanaticism ached for the Loons to cease their fruitless flapping. But every so often I hear the voice of reason telling me to come to my senses and wake to the comforting reality: “they could have been worse.”

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Peter Vermes' System and His Favorite Son by Joseph Lowery

Peter Vermes has his Sporting Kansas City squad working together and playing a beautiful attacking style of soccer. Wanting to play a brand based on possessing the ball and working it creatively into the attacking third, Vermes has had to form a roster capable of carrying out his vision. Last season, with center backs Ike Opara, Matt Besler and mid-season acquisition CDM Ilie Sanchez, SKC was known for being defensively dominant. In 2017, they only allowed 0.79 goals per game and 0.93 expected goals per game. Both of those numbers were good for first place in all of Major League Soccer. This year, the defensive numbers have slipped slightly; while Kansas City is still in the top three in terms of goals against per game, their expected number has increased to 1.45. Those statistics illustrate the shift in Vermes’ system from a defensive focus to an offensive one. With the offseason additions of Felipe Gutierrez and Yohan Croizet in midfield and Johnny Russell at right wing, Kansas City now has the fire power to play the brand Vermes wants.

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