Thu. Sep 21st, 2023
Teemu Pukki leans on a railing at Allianz Field.

Image: Minnesota United

There’s a condition — you, the reader — have to oblige while reading this article. Unorthodox, I know. The concept of having to do something while reading an article, it’s odd… I get it. 

But hear me out. 

Before you continue, go to your music streaming app of choice and search up the song “Teemu Pukki Baby” by Chris Baron & BassBros. Put it on repeat until you’re done reading. I’ve linked the Spotify version here.

You can thank me later. 

Now, for the good stuff

Tuesday morning, Minnesota United FC announced the signing of Finnish international and former Norwich City striker Teemu Pukki on a Designated Player contract. He joins on a two-year deal through June 2025 with a club option into December 2025.

“I feel as though we have gotten that goalscorer we have been craving ever since Christian Ramirez left. He’s a gold standard, proven goalscorer,” said MNUFC Head Coach Adrian Heath. “If you look at his record he’s scored at a high level at every team he’s played for. His goalscoring record in the Premier League, the Championship and the Finnish National Team speaks for itself.  He’s a great professional, what you see is what you get, always has a smile on his face, gets his work done and is a great teammate. The fact is, he scores goals and I know that if we continue to create the opportunities we have this season he will no doubt be successful in this league. We are delighted to get him here and get him integrated with the group.”

Pukki brings a wealth of experience, and for this group, that might be the most important part of his addition to the attacking core. A youthful attack with U22 Initiative players in Bongokuhle Hlongwane and Sang Bin Jeong, 33-year old Pukki will help get the most out of the Loons youthful duo. There’s also the x-factor of adding a healthy and fully fit Emanuel Reynoso into the mix. With a proper goal-scoring forward now, MNUFC’s attack is finally taking shape.

Here are my three biggest takeaways surrounding Pukki joining the Loons:

The Loons are Due to Hit on a Forward, right? (…right?)

It’s no secret Minnesota have failed to hit on their DP signings of late. From Ramon Abila and Angelo Rodriguez to Adrien Hunou and Luis Amarilla, the decisions made in the striker position have been woeful from both the scouting and technical staff departments. Add attacking midfielder Thomas Chacon and forward signings Fanendo Adi, Juan Agudelo, Kei Kamara, Abu Danladi, Justin McMaster, Foster Langsdorf and Aaron Schoenfeld… it’s not been good enough. 

Pukki feels different. The all-time leading scorer for the Finnish national team, a player who has scored at the highest level in England while prolifically scoring in the second division as well… There’s something about it that just feels right. From the timing of the signing to the veteran experience, it feels like a perfect fit. The Loons need someone to take the burden off of Reynoso while opening up space for the energy and pace of the Loons’ two outstanding youngsters in Sang Bin and Hlongwane.

Only time will tell, but for the first time in a while, there is a cloud of confidence hovering over an MNUFC signing in the striker position.

Pukki Might Be the Dagger the Loons Need

I think it’s an MLS outlook, or maybe even American soccer (now I sound like Adrian…) but your starting striker should be able to play 90 minutes every week on single-match weeks. You shouldn’t have to look to the bench in an intense, close match knowing that you’re confident in the ability of your No. 9 out there. For the Loons, I don’t think there has ever been a time where they’ve been comfortable playing a striker for 90 minutes every week. Not since Ramirez, at least.

With Pukki, you have that. Somebody who knows how to read a match, make runs when necessary, not gas themselves out within 60 minutes… the list goes on.

MNUFC have dropped nine points from winning positions this season, most recently conceding in the 98th minute against Real Salt Lake in a match they were up 2-0 in, only to settle for a 2-2 draw. With a forward like Pukki, that third goal becomes easier and you no longer have to rely on subbing on three defenders in the final 10 minutes to try and park the bus to win the game. He’s a forward who scores that dagger and gets you the comfortable lead late in the match. 

On paper, he brings everything this club needs.

There’s Still Money to Spend

A quick note: A free transfer is never free. Pukki is being signed as a DP, meaning his wages are going to be rather hefty. That HAS to be factored into the conversation, regardless of the DP tag. My best guess is he will be somewhere near the wages of Reynoso, if not higher. Bebelo makes 2.15 million per year in his current contract with the Loons. Factor that into understanding this section.

There is still, however, money to spend. Thursday morning, the Loons were linked with Tranmere Rovers left back Ethan Bristow. A source close to Sota Soccer confirmed the Loons’ interest in Bristow, who is a 21-year old talent who has represented Concacaf side St. Kitts and Nevis as a youth international, despite having dual-citizenship with England.

It has also been well-noted that the Loons had scouts watching the U20 FIFA World Cup in May/June. An area where they have been watching and scouting heavily over the past year has been South Korea and Japan. In the tournament, South Korea went on an incredible run to the semifinals, eventually taking 4th place after falling in the third-place match to Israel.

The Loons have one open U22 Initiative slot, and although Bristow fits the mold on paper, there’s a chance it could be used elsewhere. Regardless, expect that slot to be filled this summer transfer window.

Heath has made it a point to express the Loons need to fill the gap at left back while also mentioning they are in the market for a midfielder over the past few weeks. Heath has repeatedly mentioned they have money to spend this summer, so it will be interesting to see what follows the Pukki signing. Sota Soccer will keep you up to speed on all the news regarding summer transfers over the next week, so tag along for the fun.

By Jacob Schneider

Jacob Schneider is a freelance writer based out of the Twin Cities covering Minnesota United FC. He is a staff writer for, with other work found on & Follow his work on twitter @_JacobSchneider

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