Image: Minnesota United
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It’s gotta be a bit awkward.
Your top goal-scorer, who’s at times been your lone source of consistent attacking production, is also potentially your premier defensive midfield option AND may need to start at a totally different position if your best player is still in his home country by season’s start?
That’s the conundrum Minnesota United faces with utility star Robin Lod ahead of the 2023 season.
Ideally, the Finn would be your starting right winger with a solid, experienced defensive midfield behind. It might be over-simplistic, but it’s important to have your most dangerous goal-scorers as close to the goal as humanly possible, right?
The (good?) problem is, Lod was really good in the middle last year, as the Loons bolstered a 9-3-1 record with him starting in one of those two spots.
“It’s fun to play different positions because you have to think a little bit different in each position,” said Lod in an MLS Media Day interview. “Lately I’ve been really enjoying playing in the middle, to be more involved in the full game.”
Moreover, while Minnesota looks ultra-deep at CDM on paper, no other two options have truly come out and solidified their position and pairing. In the 4-2-3-1, 10 different midfield pairings were utilized in 2022, with eight separate players starting in either the No. 6 or No. 8 positions.
With that being said, there is some optimism the squad won’t have to rely on Lod spending a majority of his time in the defensive half of the pitch.
Hassani Dotson’s returning after missing nearly the entire 2022 season with a torn ACL, younger pieces like Joseph Rosales and Kervin Arriaga look to take another step forward, and the leadership of Wil Trapp remains present on and off the pitch.
Wanna go further down this rabbit hole? Lod may not be starting in any of the aforementioned positions when Minnesota kicks off in Dallas February 25th.
That’s because, in addition to being your best right winger and potentially your top No. 8, the 29-year old looks to be “Plan B” for the CAM slot if Emanuel Reynoso isn’t yet with the squad for the season opener.
While, in a vacuum, it may be a “good problem” to have such a flexible piece in your roster puzzle, it adds another layer of uncertainty to an already question-laden preseason.