Vito Mannone Goalkeeper of the Year

Vito Mannone: Goalkeeper of the Year

When Vito Mannone joined Minnesota United prior to the 2019 season, acquiring the ex-Arsenal man from Reading required a considerable outlay of funds and an international slot — a high price for a goalkeeper in MLS. But Head Coach Adrian Heath and the rest of the staff had watched the team concede 141 goals over its first two seasons. As they upgraded the defense with additions like MLS vets Ike Opara and Osvaldo Alonso and internationals like Romain Metanire, they knew they would need a steadying presence in goal to complete the renovation of the squad and turn them into playoff contenders.

Mannone has delivered. He has led the team in ways both big and small, making the consistent saves that Heath is so fond of referring to simply as “his job” while also coming up big in moments like the stoppage time penalty save at the end of a taut game against FC Dallas to seal the win.

Mannone has been the only MNUFC player to play in every single competitive game this season, racking up 11 clean sheets (3rd in the league) and 115 saves (3rd in the league) through Sunday’s game at Portland. In that game, he made 11 saves, setting a new single-game record for the club. Minnesota’s goal differential stands at +9 currently, second in the Western Conference behind only LAFC.

But as with so many positions in soccer, numbers can only ever tell part of the story when it comes to the impact a goalkeeper has. Time and again, Mannone has shepherded the team through difficult moments with a mixture of fire and ice, alternately firing up his defense and getting them to keep their cool when necessary. As a veteran and natural leader, he’s also served as the nexus for the team’s influx of European players, positioning himself at the core of a group that includes Jan Gregus, Romain Metanire and Robin Lod while also serving as a steadying veteran influence on younger players like Chase Gasper and Mason Toye.

With the Italian goalkeeper’s loan set to expire in December, there are a lot of question marks about what exactly the 31-year-old’s future with the team is, but there should be no question about the massive impact he’s already made on the culture of the club or his essential contribution to Minnesota United’s success on the pitch this season.