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Minnesota United has huge support, but bigger roster question marks

Dark Cloud and True North Elite won’t stop singing no matter what, but their team is a serious work in progress.

@MNUFC on Twitter

You can find the entire 2017 MLS season preview here!

Unlike fellow expansion team Atlanta United, no one seems to be expecting big things from the Loons in their inaugural MLS campaign. Despite having a massive head start by way of their reasonably successful time in the NASL, it would be seen as minor miracle if Minnesota can simply avoid the bottom of the table.

That’s due to the Loons’ comparatively conservative spending and generally conservative approach. While Atlanta has been busy signing attacking talent from South America and even Europe, Minnesota has been content to look for a collection of MLS veterans, lower-division stars, and lightly regarded Europeans. It could work, but don’t expect too much from this group.

Three reasons to be pumped for 2017

Give us less than two minutes and we'll have you ready for 2017.

Posted by E Pluribus Loonum on Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Key facts

2016 record: 11-8-13, fifth in the NASL

2016 playoffs: Did not qualify for NASL playoffs

Head coach: Adrian Heath

Key additions: Kevin Molino, Francisco Calvo, Bashkim Kadrii, and Rasmus Schüller.

Projected starting XI (4-2-3-1): John Alvbåge; Justin Davis, Francisco Calvo, Vadim Demidov, Jermaine Taylor; Collen Warner, Rasmus Schüller; Bashkim Kadrii, Kevin Molino, Johan Venegas; Christian Ramirez

Major trophies won, all-time: USL A-League Championship (1999, as Minnesota Thunder), NASL Championship (2011, as Minnesota Stars)

What we think of our team: We are proud to have an MLS franchise in the Twin Cities, finally.

What outsiders think of our team: “Adrian Heath got his guy, didn't he? The acquisition of Kevin Molino from Orlando City, alongside prodigal son Miguel Ibarra, gives the Loons an immediate attacking identity in Year One. The defense, however, doesn't inspire confidence. If Vadim Demidov and Co. can manage to keep things from getting out of hand at the back, Minnesota United could fight their way into the conversation for a playoff spot in the West. But we'll need some convincing first.”

Minnesota United’s biggest rival: As a new team, the Loons do not necessarily have one yet. I would guess that Sporting Kansas City is a likely candidate, though, after a contentious U.S. Open Cup game last season.

Best social media follow: We have been enjoying following Mohammed Saeid (@MSaeid8). Otherwise, we also enjoy Christian Ramirez (@Chris_Ramirez17) and his #sleepcam.

Our season hinges on the back line. The preseason has shown that the Loons have some strong attacking depth, but the Achilles heel of the team is the back line and goalkeeper. If the defense can play well and give MNUFC a chance to win close games, the season could be really successful.

Why this year won’t be like last year: Last year in the NASL was rough. The team should have finished higher in the final table than it did, but the last two months of the season they just seemed deflated. Maybe it was because the players knew that the team was moving on to MLS, but this year I think there will be an air of pride from the players.

Key player: Vadim Demidov. He appears to be on track to be the captain for the inaugural season in MLS, and if he can keep the defense from crumbling, the team should do pretty well.

Projected finish in 2017: 11th in the Western Conference.

Wild prediction: The team will sign a huge name in the summer as the first designated player. My bold prediction will be that it is a goalkeeper who is no longer in his prime, but can still compete at a high level.