Homegrown talent James Musa heading back to US major league

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Whanganui's former All White defender James Musa is going back to the show in the United States football system, with the news of his signing with Minnesota United FC in Major League Soccer (MLS) late last week.

The 27-year-old, who received his green card last year so he now qualifies as a domestic player, had completed his two year contract with the successful Phoenix Rising in the second-tier United Soccer League (ULS).

He last played in the top-tier MLS in 2017 for Sporting Kansas City.

"James is one of them players who's been in and out of the league and he's been on that cusp of being in the league," said Minnesota head coach Adrian Heath on the club's website.

"We had a good long chat with James because we've got the likes of Hassani Dotson, Jan Gregus, Ozzie Alonso in front of him — a really competitive area of the field — and he's up for the challenge.

"Physically, he's very imposing, very athletic. Really good personality, he's very strong-willed and we think he's going to come in and try to compete.

"He knows it's going to be tough but he's prepared to embrace the challenge and compete for a starting spot.

"He's got the opportunity, so it's up to him to take it."

Debuting in 2017, Minnesota have developed quickly into a competitive MLS club.

They finished fourth in the 12-team Western Conference of the 2019 MLS season, making the playoffs for the first time, where they were defeated 2-1 by the LA Galaxy on October 20.

Nicknamed 'The Loons', Minnesota has a steady average attendence of over 19,000 fans who attend their home games at Allianz Field in Saint Paul.

Musa's addition shores up their depth on the bench with the potential to become a regular midfield starter if circumstances go his way.

He will join fellow New Zealanders in veteran Michael Boxall and rookie Noah Billingsley, both defenders.

In 2019, Musa started 20 games for the Phoenix, including during their incredible 20-game winning streak, which is a record for professional soccer in the United States and double the previous mark of 10 games.

The Phoenix finished the regular season well on top of the 18-team Western Conference of the USL with a 24-6-4 record, lifting the Supporters' Shield as the top qualifier for the playoffs from both the Western and Eastern Conferences.

However, after beating Austin Bold FC on penalties in the October 26 conference quarterfinals, the Phoenix were upset 2-1 by the fourth-placed Real Monarchs from Utah in the semifinals, with Musa never leaving the bench.

The Monarchs rode that momentum all the way to the USL Championship.

In his two seasons with the Phoenix, Musa played in 54 games across almost 4000 minutes, also scoring two goals with three assists.

In 2019, the 1.83m tall midfielder made 20 clearences, five blocks and 24 interceptions on defence.

He completed 26 of 39 tackles (66.7 per cent) and won 31 of 49 aerial duels (63.3 per cent), as well as 96 of 189 regular duels (50.8).

Musa successfully completed 954 of 1129 passes (84.5), which included 113 of 163 long passes (69.3).

Joining Minnesota United makes the 11th professional club Musa has been involved with across New Zealand, Australia, England and the United States.

Jared Smith
Whanganui Chronicle 21/1/20

(*) Last Reviewed: January 22, 2020

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