You don’t have to tell Robin Lod that he didn’t make the kind of impact that was expected last season. The Finnish midfielder is the first to admit it, and he does it with an even-keeled mix of regret and optimism for the future befitting his home country’s national character.
“There was definitely a lot of things going on at the same time,” he said of the time when he arrived in Minnesota last year. After wrapping up his season with Sporting Gijon in the second division of Spain’s La Liga on June 8, Lod was transferred to MNUFC on July 16. Only weeks later, his first child was born. “I came from the offseason straight to the middle of the [MLS] season, when the games were going and my baby was born in Finland and I had to wait for some paperwork to bring the whole family here. It definitely was hectic. I'm happy that now I can have a fresh start and have a good preseason before the season.”
Brought on to add zing in the attacking third and playing mostly on the left wing, Lod’s performance last year as he got back up to fitness in a hurry and adjusted to both the team and a new living situation was mostly workmanlike. His decision-making overall was excellent and provided a good level of tactical awareness on the left wing, but he registered neither a goal nor an assist in the 10 games he played. It’s a situation he’s very much looking forward to changing this year.
“I have really high expectations for myself and I want to score some goals and assist some goals because I know that helps the team,” he said. “For me, it's the most important thing for me that the team wins, no matter who scored the goal. If it's someone else, I'm really happy for that.”
If the preseason is any indication, Lod is on his way to a more productive regular season. But is preseason any indication? It’s obviously critical in its own way — as a means to get fit, to get the team clicking — but fans need only look back to the Loons’ undefeated preseason in 2017 to know that correlation is not only not causation, it’s not even always correlative.
“Of course you can't pay too much attention to the preseason games, but it's all about getting to know each other a little bit better,” he said. “The wins always get you in a positive mood and it helps for the future, for sure.”
Several players have spoken about that last element of the preseason — making winning a habit, an expectation — and it’s something that’s been slowly working its way into the culture of the team over the last year. It’s clear the team will be leaning on the veteran leadership of players like Ike Opara and Osvaldo Alonso once again, as well as incisive offensive contributions from newcomer Luis Amarilla and defensive solidity at the back from newcomer Tyler Miller. But there will also be players who will get better, who will be more consistent, who will show a new gear. Robin Lod is aiming to be one of those.