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At Long Last, Minnesota United Have Their Defensive Midfielder

COPENHAGEN, DENMARK - MAY 14: Jan Gregus of FC Copenhagen celebrates after the Danish Alka Superliga match between FC Copenhagen and Brondby IF at Telia Parken Stadium on May 14, 2017 in Copenhagen, Denmark. (Photo by Lars Ronbog / FrontZoneSport via Getty Images)

The cries for Minnesota United FC to sign a defensive midfielder to shore up the gap in front of their catastrophically bad defense have been loud and clear for much of the club’s tenure in Major League Soccer. On Thursday, the club’s first signing of the 2019 season finally addressed that need.

The club announced on Thursday afternoon that they have acquired Slovakian midfielder Ján Greguš from FC Copenhagen of the Danish Superliga, and Greguš will be the club’s third designated player signing. The club’s twitter post that accompanied the press release was simply labeled “#6”, the longstanding position of need that in theory is now filled.

Greguš will turn 28 in January, and will immediately become one of the taller bodies on the United squad at 6-foot-3, as Adrian Heath noted in his released comments. “The one thing that sticks out is his composure on the ball,” said Heath. “He’s got a great range of passes, both short and long. He has a great stride to goal, and an imposing stature.”

Greguš joined Copenhagen before the 2016-17 season and appeared in over 100 matches for the team, including time in both the UEFA Champions League and Europa League. This season, he played in 34 matches, with nearly half (16) coming in Copenhagen’s Europa League campaign and more minutes there than in the Superliga.

The highlights and comments from the club emphasize that while Minnesota views Greguš as a 6, he is by no means just signed for his defensive prowess. “The fact that he’s in his pomp — what we consider his prime — we think we have acquired him at the right time in his career,” said Heath.

“We know we’ve got excellent attacking pieces on the roster, but we need to be able to supply the ball to those pieces and we feel that Jan can be the supplier and connector from the midfield to the attack.”

If there is room for doubt, it comes in the fact that Greguš has completed a full 90 minutes in just two of his 18 league appearances this season, with 11 of those 18 appearances coming off the bench. However, it’s clear that Copenhagen designated him for the Europa League, as he started and finished seven games including four of the six in the recently concluded group stage.

Greguš is also another player who has a decent amount of experience with his national team, to go with players like Francisco Calvo and Michael Boxall. Greguš has 22 appearances and two goals for the Slovakian national team, including starts in both of Slovakia’s final games of the UEFA Nations League in November.

The optimistic view is easy to construct.

Minnesota has filled the cavernous gap at the base of midfield with a player with European and national team experience, a player in the likely peak of his career at 28 years old, and a player whose passing skills look well suited to contribute to the theory of United’s attack in 2019. With the expectation of more signings to come over the holiday period, closing the squad’s biggest hole is a great way to start the offseason business.

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