After the latest edition of the MLS SuperDraft, Minnesota United have secured the rights to both Ryen Jiba and Emmanuel Iwe. Fans may recognize both names from last season, as both young men had some form of involvement with MNUFC.
With the 19th pick, Minnesota United selected 21-year-old Ryen Jiba. The South Sudanese-born defender grew up in Salt Lake City, Utah, where he played his college soccer for Salt Lake Community College. Jiba scored 25 goals in 48 games with the Bruins, leading his team to an NJCAA National Championship in 2021.
During his time at SLCC, Jiba was named the 2019 NJCAA Region 18 player of the year, earning USYS Best 11 honors in the same year. After college, he made a single appearance and scored a goal for USL League Two outfit Park City Red Wolves SC before moving upward and onward.
Jiba joins the Loons from Union Omaha of USL League One, where he signed in February of 2022, making 28 appearances for the Owls before getting drafted this year. While he was part of the Omaha squad that eliminated MNUFC from the US Open Cup last season, the club will be hoping that he can replace that bad memory with plenty of good ones during his time as a Loon.
Without that USOC match, MNUFC may have never identified Jiba as a potential signing. Following his solid performance against the Loons, the technical staff singled him out as one to watch.
“That was a really disappointing game, but the standout on the night was Ryen Jiba,” said MNUFC Technical Director Mark Watson. “His athleticism is off the charts, we think he really has a lot of potential. We had him as the best left-back in the entire draft, so we’re excited that we were able to get him.”
Throughout his career, coaches have described Jiba as dynamic, phenomenal and a true leader. His coach at SLCC, Mark Davis, spoke to the reliability of Jiba as a difference maker following their national championship triumph. He’s a tricky, left-footed player with the skill to make waves in attack, as well as the fortitude to help his defense when they need him.
Watson sees Jiba as a player with a lot of potential to improve. If needed, there will be opportunities to play with MNUFC2, but Jiba is expected to be able to join the first team relatively quickly. While MNUFC have now acquired his MLS rights via the draft, an agreement will still need to be reached with Union Omaha before the player can join the club officially. The clubs have already been in contact, but no agreement has been announced yet.
With the 48th overall pick, MNUFC chose midfielder Emmanuel Iwe. A Twin Cities native, Iwe was part of MNUFC2 during the 2022 season. Because Iwe played for St. Cloud State University within the last 12 months, he was eligible for the draft and could not be protected by the club ahead of time.
For Loons fans that are unaware of his background, Iwe grew up in St Louis Park and played his youth soccer with Joy Athletic Club. He began his development with Joy back in 2009, staying with the club until 2021 when he took part in their inaugural National Premier Soccer League season.
Iwe played college soccer for SCSU, tallying more than 1,300 minutes, six goals, and four assists in his only season for the school. After attending a tryout last January, the Loons signed him to an MLS NEXT Pro contract, making him the first Minnesota native to join MNUFC2. He made his first team debut in Minnesota United’s 4-0 friendly win against Everton, not a bad way to start.
The coaching staff at the club see a bright future ahead of Iwe. Between his impressive speed and creative thinking, he has all the tools necessary to develop into a top attacking player. Now that his MLS player rights are secured, MNUFC look forward to seeing what Emmanuel Iwe can do.
“We’ve had the luxury of having him for a year to see what kind of player he is and what kind of character he has,” Watson said of Iwe. “There was no one at that stage of the draft that matched his ability or his character, so it was an easy choice for us.”