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Minnesota United adds third Designated Player in Slovak midfielder Ján Greguš

Copenhagen's Jan Gregus, right, challenges Slavia's Ibrahim-Benjamin Traore, left, during their UEFA Europa League group C soccer match between Slavia Praha and FC Copenhagen at the Eden stadium in Prague, Czech Republic, Thursday, Nov. 8, 2018. (AP Photo/Petr David Josek)

Six-foot-two midfielder Ján Greguš is Minnesota United’s third Designated Player in team history. The 27-year-old will join the Loons pending his Visa, International Transfer Certificate and a physical, the club announced Thursday.

“We believe he can be our anchor in the midfield,” Minnesota United sporting director Manny Lagos said in a statement released by the club. 

Loons coach Adrian Heath also commented on Greguš’ playmaking ability, saying, “He’s got a great range of passes, both short and long. 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.”

Lagos has spoken, on more than one occasion, about the difficulty his team had replacing Sam Cronin. The defensive midfielder sustained a concussion on Aug. 26, 2017, during a game against the Chicago Fire and has not played in a competitive game for MNUFC since. Cronin’s absence was also cited by both CEO Chris Wright and managing director Dr. Bill McGuire in recent interviews that touched on MNUFC following its 36-point MLS debut season with a 36-point sophomore effort, while conceding 141 goals across those two seasons.

The lack of a No. 6 prompted Heath to make use of three centerbacks in his starting XI for a multiple-game stretch last season, an attempt to shore up a historically-bad defense. Brazilians Maximiano and Fernando Bob were also auditioned at holding midfielder, but their services were not retained for the 2019 season.

Interestingly, Greguš isn’t a Diego Chará-type destroyer. Instead, he brings a blend of skills and talents that Lagos and Heath hope will elevate Minnesota’s midfield, both in defense and on the attack.

Copenhagen’s Danish defender Jan Gregus and Slavia’s Czech midfielder Jaromir Zmrhal fight for the ball during the UEFA Europa football match SK Slavia Praha vs FC Copenhagen on November 8, 2018 in Plzen, Czech Republic. (Photo by Michal CIZEK / AFP)

Greguš’ stature allows him to contest the ball in the air, and while unlikely to lead MLS in tackles next season, the Slovak was signed in part to help establish a defensive spine in the middle of MNUFC’s shape. And it isn’t out of the question that Greguš could play alongside a Chará-type should the Loons find a suitable one to partner with him.

The Slovakia international’s pedigree is an encouraging one, warranting the DP contract.

“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,” Heath said.

Joining from F.C. Copenhagen — currently the 45th-ranked men’s side in Europe — where Greguš made 107 appearances in the Danish Superliga, the Slovak has also has four UEFA Champions League appearances and 12 Europa League appearances on his resume. At the international level, Greguš has 22 caps for Slovakia and has scored a pair of goals.

“Jan has been playing very well for his club and his country and he has great intentions to lift our club,” said Lagos. “He’s the type of player that we need in order to continue the development of our roster and our club.”

The signing is a statement of intent ahead of an important season for Minnesota. The front office has insisted that the Loons made progress last year, even if their end-of-season point total did not reflect as much. Wright is on record saying there will be “no excuses” if MNUFC doesn’t improve its on-field results. And that on top of the upcoming opening of Allianz Field — the $250 million state-of-the-art, soccer-specific stadium that is the crown jewel of the organization — which will only add to MNUFC’s desire to impress in 2019.

Having declined the contract options of nine players last month, Lagos and company still have plenty of work left to do this winter. But making Greguš MNUFC’s first offseason addition is definitely an encouraging sign, not least of which for a fan base hungry for one.

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