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Minnesota United signs fullback Romain Métanire

Lille's French defender Fode Ballo-Toure (R) vies with Reims' Romain Metanire during the French L1 football match between Lille and Reims on December 9, 2018 at the Pierre Mauroy Stadium in Villeneuve-d'Ascq. (FRANCOIS LO PRESTI/AFP/Getty Images)

MINNEAPOLIS — Minnesota United has officially signed Romain Métanire. The Malagasy international, who was acquired using Targeted Allocation Money, will occupy an international roster spot.

A right-footed defender, Métanire, 28, adds professional experience to a young MNUFC fullback corps that otherwise consists of Carter Manley, 22, and Chase Gasper, 23. The latter were both first-round MLS SuperDraft picks in 2018 and 2019, respectively. Loons captain Francisco Calvo saw time at left back to close out the Loons’ 2018 season, but preferring to play centerback, his role for the coming MLS season remains to be seen.

Métanire will join his new teammates pending a physical and the receipt of his P1 Visa and International Transfer Certificate.

“Romain is an experienced player and we have the mindset of bringing in players who can come in and compete for a spot straight away,” said MNUFC Head Coach Adrian Heath, setting expectations for the newest member of his squad. “He’s been playing a really good standard in France. He’s very athletic, he can play in both halves of the field, great at defending, but good at going forward as well. The role of the fullback has evolved — it’s multifaceted. You have to have the physical capabilities to defend, but you have to also be a threat in the opposition’s half. We are excited to have him in and it’s another step in the right direction in this critical offseason for the club.”

Métanire’s addition follows the signings of 6-foot-3 center midfielder Ján Greguš and veteran MLS holding midfielder Osvaldo Alonso. All three players have been brought in with an eye toward shoring up a defense that conceded an MLS-record 141 goals across two seasons. And while it is hoped Greguš and, especially, Alonso will offer the Loons’ back line more protection than the past two seasons, Métanire was brought in to bolster it directly, as well as to give the Loons width going forward.

At the end of November, MNUFC made a point to announce it was in contract negotiations to re-sign fullback Eric Miller. The Minnesota native was acquired earlier that May from Colorado in exchange for Scottish winger Sam Nicholson and an international roster spot. He made 18 appearances for the Loons. But, there has been no further word from the club on negotiations with Miller as the team began its preseason training in full earlier this week.

Born in the city of Metz in the northeast of France, Métanire has family roots that reach back to Madagascar and Réunion. He began his professional career with his hometown club of FC Metz, starting with its reserves in 2008. From 2010 to 2016,  Métanire made 136 appearances across five competitions with Metz’s first team, helping Les Grenats achieve promotion from Ligue 2 to Ligue 1 in 2014.

Metz and Métanire spent only a season together in France’s top flight before the pair were relegated the following year. After another season in Ligue 2, Métanire joined KV Kortrijk in Belgium’s Jupiler Pro League on a free transfer, making 21 appearances for De Kerels before returning to France for the 2017-18 season.

Suiting up for Stade de Reims, Métanire played in 37 of 38 league games and helped Reims set a Ligue 2 record for most points in a season (88 of a possible 114) on its way to a first-place finish and promotion to Ligue 1.

Métanire saw his playing time diminish prior to his MLS transfer. He logged just 443 minutes across six appearances for a Reims side in 12th place.

On to a new challenge in his career, and boasting three appearances for Madagascar’s national team, Métanire will become the first Malagasy to play in MLS upon his regular-season debut.

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