Image: Minnesota United
Minnesota United’s busy summer transfer window continued Tuesday, as the club officially announced the signing of 21-year old defender Ethan Bristow from Tranmere Rovers in England’s EFL League Two.
The growing likelihood of Bristow joining the Loons had been reported over recent weeks from sources both domestically and abroad, but the club’s announcement meant that the English/St. Kits and Nevis dual national was already in Blaine and pen had been put to paper.
In fact, Bristow was on the training ground in Blaine just an hour later, as he works to get fit enough to be available as soon as possible.
“First thing that really sticks out is he has all the physical tools, great size, incredibly quick and for a young guy,” said MNUFC manager Adrian Heath. “He’s played 46 games in League Two last year, and so he’s used to tough physical football and he excelled. He’s not afraid of the physical contact in the game, but he also has a good footballing mind and sees the game well.”
From an availability standpont, Bristow can’t fully integrate with the group yet, as he awaits his visa, per an MNUFC spokesperson. No timeline has been given for when that process will be complete and he will get the green light.
After featuring for Reading’s reserve side in 2020 and 2021, Bristow got a big opportunity to jump into their first-team in the EFL Championship in the 2021-22 campaign, notching an assist in six starts and 495 minutes.
That success led to an opportunity with Tranmere in the 2022-23 season, where the left back started all 46 matches and played all 4,140 minutes. Bristow was one of seven players leaguewide to play every single minute of the season.
“For a young kid [playing 46 games in a season] is no mean feat. Because that’s men’s football,” said Heath. “The physical side of the game he can cope with as well…I think over the next few years, between him and Devin [Padelford] we’ll have two really good young fullbacks.”
That reliability is something Minnesota has been lacking at the left back position this year, with incumbent starter Kemar Lawrence having missed more than a third of the season so far. Natural right backs D.J. Taylor and Zarek Valentin have been forced to start and play significant minutes on the left in 2023.
With the insertion of Bristow and emergence of Padelford, the pieces may be falling into place on both ends of Minnesota’s backline.
“I think the way that we try and play, you know, the full backs are an integral part of our attacking,” said Heath. “And [Taylor and Valentin] getting in on the natural side, it makes it a lot easier for them.”
Thirst for Competition
Getting a taste of England’s 2nd division earlier in his career, Bristow’s season with Tranmere left him wanting more competition, both internally and on matchdays.
“When I was back home, I looked at clips and watched a few of [Minnesota’s] games. And it was just a completely different challenge to if I was just to stay in England and do the same league again,” said Bristow. “I think it’s gonna be a good challenge for me.”
Coming in at a time when Lawrence is healthy and Padelford has impressed in early runouts, the newcomer is likely to receive plenty of competition in a spot that has quickly gone from the Loons’ most thin position to arguably their deepest.
Bristow seems to understand that being pushed on the training ground will only help him reach is full potential when they roll the ball out on matchday.
“That’s one thing I didn’t have, when I was in England, it was the competition.,” said Bristow. “It was just me in that position at [Tranmere]. So making that decision to come here. I kind of look to strive, and work off of that. And just try and work my way into the team.”
During his conversation with reporters after training on Tuesday, Bristow couldn’t hide his genuine excitement for being in Minnesota and with the Loons.
The success of last season in League Two left the defender with multiple suitors back in the EFL Championship, and even with that attention and interest from upper tier clubs in his home country, and in a league he’s familiar with, the defender was keyed in on MNUFC as his preferred destination as soon as he found out they were an option.
“Before I heard about Minnesota was in between two [other teams],” said Bristow. “But since the minute I got the call from my agent saying that Minnesota was interested, it was kind of one eye and one mode for me.”
Sitting 10th in the Western Conference standings and outside the playoffs with 12 games to go in league play, MNUFC fans will hope Bristow’s reliability, enthusiasm, and competitive thirst will translate into results and bring even more optimism for what the future holds along the Loons’ backline.