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Miller-Nicholson trade: Minnesota perspective

Minnesota United midfielder Sam Nicholson (12) controls the ball during the game against the Atlanta United at TCF Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

Earlier this week, the Colorado Rapids and Minnesota United FC announced a trade, as defender Eric Miller and $50,000 in general allocation money were sent to Minnesota in exchange for midfielder Sam Nicholson and an international roster spot. ProSoccerUSA Colorado correspondent Marco Cummings sat down with Minnesota correspondent Kyle Eliason to get the Minnesota perspective on the move.

What does Colorado gain from this trade?

Eliason: I’m curious about why Colorado sought Nicholson, myself. He has played as an inverted left winger for Minnesota, and I’m not struck by an obvious position for him in Hudson’s 3-5-2. Perhaps the best fit for Nicholson would be on the left side of Colorado’s strike partnership, so he can play in his preferred style — cutting in and shooting with his right foot. I suppose it would also be possible to try Nicholson as a natural right wingback, but he is better driving toward goal than he is at taking the ball to the corner. I’ll be watching with interest to see how the Rapids utilize him.

What are some of the negatives or “needs improvement” of Nicholson’s game?

Eliason: Nicholson is confident, has good skill on the ball and is not afraid to run at defenders. He has a good work rate and combines well with his teammates in the attack. His preference for cutting in onto his right foot is rather strong. Opposing defenders have begun showing Nicholson outside, which has neutralized him a bit as of late. He’s not exactly Arjen Robben-good where he couldn’t benefit from varying up his approach and being a little less predictable.

Who do you think won this trade and why?

Eliason: It’s taken Nicholson an offseason to settle in, but he looks much improved from 2017. I think in a vacuum, this is a fairly even trade in terms of talent. Speaking to whether this trade benefits Minnesota or Colorado more, Minnesota just added a starting right back that will help shore up a porous defense and addressed an obvious need. It’s evident Hudson doesn’t see Miller as a good fit for his system, so from Colorado’s end it dealt away a player surplus to its needs. I’m just not sure yet where Nicholson will play for the Rapids, so it’s more difficult to assess the return Colorado got for parting ways with Miller. The Loons also gained a bit of cap space. So I’d give Minnesota the early edge, but the jury is still out.

From a public relations standpoint, I think it is a clear win for Minnesota. Miller is a graduate of Woodbury High School, and won Minnesota’s Class 2A Mr. Soccer award back in 2010. He’s also linked to the Kallman family, as Miller has been dating Kassey Kallman for several years — the latter has played defender for Kansas City, Boston and Washington in the WPSL. Also, Loons centerback Brent Kallman, Kassey’s brother, was a teammate of Miller’s at Woodbury High School.

Minnesotans tend to have a lot of state pride, and I expect Loons fans will get behind Miller immediately.

Somewhat related to above, many Rapids fans feel that Minnesota heavily won the Burch/Cronin deal. Is that still the case?

Eliason: I think it is hard to say that Minnesota didn’t get the better of the deal in 2017. Burch and Cronin helped shore up what had been a historically bad defense prior to their arrival. Unfortunately, due to injury, neither have been productive for the Loons in 2018. Cronin has yet to log any minutes in the league and remains out indefinitely as he attempts to recover from a concussion sustained last season. Burch, now 33 years old, hasn’t regained the step he lost after groin surgery in 2017, and has been targeted by opposing defenses when he has played. Were Burch still a starting-caliber left back, the Loons may well have kept Thiesson at right back and not traded for Miller.

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