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Minnesota United signs French fullback Wilfried Moimbé

Most recently, Moimbé made 26 appearances in all competitions for an AS Nancy-Lorraine side that placed 14th of 20 in France’s second division.

French forward Wilfried Moimbe celebrates his team's victory at the end of the French L1 football match Nantes vs Monaco on November 29, 2017. (Loic Venance/AFP/Getty Images)

ST. PAUL, Minn. — Minnesota United signed left back Wilfried Moimbé. The 30-year-old is currently training with Minnesota and is expected to finalize his transfer following a physical and the receipt of his visa and International Transfer Certificate.

Most recently, Moimbé made 26 appearances in all competitions for an AS Nancy-Lorraine side that placed 14th of 20 in France’s second division. He also boasts 23 Ligue 1 appearances from a two-year stint with FC Nantes that ended in 2017.

Terms of the deal were not released by Minnesota, but the Athletic reported his contract that runs through the end of the 2019 season.

Moimbé draws comparisons to French MNUFC right back Romain Métanire, who previously played in Ligue 1 for Reims, has arguably been the Loons’ best player this season and is on the 2019 MLS All-Star roster.

But Métanire is one of the rare examples of a fullback signed to a TAM-level contract to find success in MLS. AS Nancy-Lorraine declined to renew Moimbé’s contract following its 2018-19 season, and MNUFC was able to add him to its roster without using allocation money or guaranteeing Moimbé multiple years on his deal.

Moimbé will join rookie Chase Gasper as the only natural left backs on the Loons’ roster. Dating back to the 2018 season, right-footed players have started at left back or left wingback in 20 of 59 competitive games for Minnesota due to injuries and a lack of depth.

Former captain Francisco Calvo — left-footed — was moved from centerback to left back for the final six games of the 2018 season and started the first seven of 2019 at the position. Calvo’s subsequent trade to the Chicago Fire occurred while Gasper was in the process of recovering from an early-season hamstring injury, and Eric Miller, Miguel Ibarra and Hassani Dotson were deputized as left-sided defenders for the nine games following Calvo’s departure.

Gasper, 23, made his first MLS start June 6 against Sporting Kansas City and has started the Loons’ last seven competitive matches at left back. The former Maryland Terrapin has drawn regular praise from MNUFC head coach Adrian Heath in his first professional season. Selected 15th overall 2019 MLS SuperDraft, Gasper has validated Minnesota’s appraisal of him as having one of the highest floors in his draft class and being ready to contribute immediately at the MLS level.

But after playing four seasons of college soccer and redshirting for a year in the middle after transferring from UCLA to Maryland, Gasper still needs continued playing time to develop. 

“We’ve added another experienced piece to what’s going to be a really important last half of the season — he’s vastly experienced, very athletic,” Heath said of Moimbé in a statement released by the club. “We’ve been so pleased with Chase Gasper’s emergence, but we are mindful of the fact that Chase is the only natural left back that we have on the roster at this moment in time. This will bring added competition. It’s another important piece because we want to keep incrementally adding to the squad and improving the already talented roster that we have. We feel as though this will be important for us moving forward for the rest of the season.”

Moimbé’s addition looks to benefit the Loons not only in providing cover for the rookie, but also in providing Heath a tactical option off the bench. Moimbé is a more effective attacking fullback than Gasper.

Moimbé’s signing isn’t a blockbuster summer deal, but it is a sensible, low-risk move that better positions Minnesota for its run toward the postseason.

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