J’can McMaster impresses in MLS preseason
After securing his first professional contract with Major League Soccer (MLS) club Minnesota United, national midfielder Justin McMaster is having an impressive preseason with a week to go before the start of the 2021 regular season.
The 21-year old McMaster, who was selected 17th overall in the 2021 MLS Super Draft in January, was officially signed on Saturday to a one year deal, with an option for three more. Ahead of his first professional season, McMaster is making an impression. He scored his second goal of the preseason during Minnesota's 3-1 win over FC Cincinnati in Orlando on Saturday, the only goal that was scored from open play throughout that 90 minutes. Three out of the four goals scored were all converted from the penalty spot.
In a release, McMaster said that he has enjoyed acclimatizing to his new environment and to the demands at the elite level, but is proud of having signed his first contract.
"It's always been a dream of mine to sign professional and with Minnesota, I've enjoyed it a lot," McMaster said. "I've been enjoying the team, getting used to it over here. I was really excited to sign; my family was really proud. It was a very good moment for me. I'm a young guy and I'm adapting to the intensity, but it's really good so far, I feel very welcomed. The older guys try to help and bring me under their wing."
Another draft pick Nabilai Kibunguchy was also signed to a similar deal. Head coach Adrian Heath, in a release, said while pleased at how the pair have adjusted to the squad since arriving, he has warned that the standards have now increased entering their first seasons as professionals.
"We think there's a lot of growth there. They've got to start bringing it every day now, it's not a three-month season like it is in college. Expectations are higher; expectations from us, every single day, are going to be higher than they've been used to," Heath said. "But we like them and it's a great opportunity for them."
Minnesota United finished last season in fourth place in the Western Conference and advanced to the conference championship before losing to 2020 MLS Cup finalist Seattle Sounders. Minnesota will open its campaign against the Sounders on April 16.