With maybe 10 weeks* until the first weekend of games, is it officially pre-season yet?
With so many clubs hosting open tryouts at the end of February and beginning of March, it feels like perhaps it’s not quite pre-season but the countdown has emphatically begun.
*I didn’t actually count the number of weeks until the season starts.
1. Minneapolis City
The team remains the most complete and the club the most visible member of The North, which means that City may just stay on this perch for a long time to come.
City’s second open tryout is in a few days, so expect to see the team finalized shortly after that, with the strikeforce the big question for me as there has been no word on if Andy Lorei or Matthew Gweh will return. Last year, the Crows typically featured a single center forward and Whitney Browne can certainly play up top, but at the moment there is a distinct shortage of striker-like signings in Minneapolis.
While that feels like nit-picking when you consider the greater context of the upcoming tryout, the top-tier signings made to date and the proven player-attraction track record this club has, I still want to see another striker brought in because, as any color commentator worth his salt will tell you, winning games in this league is going to come down to who can score the most goals.
On another note, I’ve always wondered about the utility of open tryouts, whether it’s a valid way to find players or a money-grab, so it’s been good to see City select players from theirs, with two development players, Ramone McKeithan and Abdi Kadi joining after the first tryout. Gives people hope of a fair shot at the tryout if they show well.
2. Med City
Great first signing, seems like a strong second signing, and they have done a good job of publishing their efforts on and off the field to build interest and excitement. That’s a clue to me that they know what they are doing and, while it is purely speculative, creates an expectation of a thoughtful roll-out of quality player announcements in the build-up to the opening game.
True, they currently have a grand total of two players on the roster, but that is officially two more than most of the clubs on this list, which is why the lack of offseason news is terrible.
To wrap things up, they couldn’t be more dark horse, except now they’re second in the power rankings list and therefore mere days away from becoming overrated and plummeting down the list.
3. Duluth FC
Announcements are on their way, according to head coach Kyle Bakas, and it’s fair to expect heavy representation from local colleges St. Scholastica, University of Wisconsin, Superior, and Lake Superior College, where Bakas is a coach.
Key for the Bluegreens will be retention of their core three from St Scholastica, Kyle Farrar, Ben Phillips and Joe Watt, and I can’t imagine those three aren’t already signed if not yet announced, if you know what I’m saying. It’s a smart move to rely on players familiar with each other for such a short season and Bakas revealed that Duluth would be looking even farther afield to ensure that they have the talent to compete in the NPSL.
“I have been in contact with a large number of players from throughout the country, D.C. California, the South, Ohio and expect that a number of them will sign with us” said the coach, and he is also a champion subtweeter and therefore clearly prepared for this conference.
4. Viejos son los Trapos
The downward move of Los Trapos has everything to do with a lack of public action because, while they have been very busy behind the scenes, they have only formally announced two players.
The biggest question for me is how they manage the MASL and NPSL overlap because, between the two, there are a lot of games packed into a very short time. It’s a big enough gap in quality between MASL Divisions One and Two, let alone managing that and having a team compete in NPSL.
Not enough separation from the teams could result in overwork, with games potentially Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday on multiple weeks. At the same time, too much separation could force a mass intake of new players and all that means for cohesion and chemistry. It’s a delicate balance they have to strike.
5. Minnesota TwinStars
The Dragons have been slower to act than their metro rivals, but did complete a partnership with Fire SC which, as I said, is a very smart move for them. Also, they completed a tryout that included some solid talent, according to my men’s league sources, highlighted by K.P. Toure, a powerful striker with a strong pedigree, who was last seen in the Minneapolis City squad for the U.S. Open Cup, though he did not play.
The tryout also included a contingent of former FC Fargo players and I can only hope, for everyone’s sake, that they did not feature in the 6-0 drubbing Fargo took when they visited Minneapolis City.
Additionally, the club announced in E Pluribus Loonum that they would be playing their home games at Minnetonka High School. It’s a high school turf field that is awfully far from the urban core but it’s better than TBD.
Maybe they can trademark that.
Minnesota TwinStars. Better than TBD.
6. Dakota Fusion
Quietly, Fusion have been doing things, though they are also doing everything they can to ensure that nobody knows about it. It’s a level of secrecy that, at this point, simply can’t be put down to ineptness and must be some sort of sinister plot.
Moving from fact to speculation, it appears that they found a head coach, and though they didn’t bother to give any bio or other description, they provided a name and a photo, clearly in a breach of their security protocol, and as far as I can tell he’s the North Dakota State women’s assistant coach.
NDSU is a competitive Division 1 school, and so this strikes me as an astute signing, but maybe this is another James Robbins in Fargo who also likes soccer? Maybe it is part of an elaborate ruse, a sort of mis-direction campaign. I wouldn’t put it past them.
In other news, apparently Fusion had a tryout and they did post some pictures from it so you know it really happened, but nothing further to date about player signings.
Their owner, Sajid Ghauri, is the chairman of Tri City Storm, which is Fargo’s biggest youth club, and perhaps it is fair to expect them to rely on that pipeline but I’m not sure I have the energy to click another re-posted Facebook link on Twitter to figure out if that’s true so, blatantly, their campaign of secrecy is working.
7. Sioux Falls Thunder
Found their owner on Twitter and, plot twist, it turns out that he played for FC Fargo last season before deciding to create his own club in the southern of the Dakotas.
In other news, they posted a photo of them receiving their NPSL match balls and they have an open tryout in late March, so they clearly plan to play soccer this summer.
Thus ends the update on Sioux Falls Thunder.
8. La Crosse Aris
Now over 1,000 days since their last tweet!