Vito Mannone’s loan spell at Minnesota United recently ended, and it was certainly a fruitful one for the Italian. He was named as the MLS goalkeeper of the season, and regularly earned plaudits from across the division.
To find out more about what went so right for Mannone, we spoke to Jacob Schneider, senior contributor for E Pluribus Loonum, our Minnesota United-supporting SB Nation cousins. Check their site out here, and their Twitter here.
What was the reaction from Loons fans like when Mannone joined?
When Vito joined MNUFC, there was a bit of worry all around as to why the team was paying so much money for a goalkeeper, even one with his European experience. We already had goalkeeper Bobby Shuttleworth, who had started for the Loons for the majority of the two previous seasons. It was evident that Shuttleworth wasn’t seen as the starter once Vito arrived, so there were high expectations for someone replacing a fan favourite like Bobby.
What were the standout performances during his time with you?
Standout performances and Vito Mannone should be two phrases that go together no matter the situation. Vito came up big so many times this season that it’s hard to recall just one moment. He was a leader on and off the pitch, and frankly, one of the most humble people I’ve ever met. He’s an absolutely incredible interview.
How does he compare to other Minnesota ‘keepers in years gone by?
Vito is by far the most talented goalkeeper Minnesota has ever rostered – that’s not a debate. Vito came up clutch in so many different situations while producing week after week with a high-quality performance. There were a few moments early in the season where you could see that he still had a bit of nerves. However, his form never really dipped.
He earned the number one spot on the MNUFC roster almost immediately, and for good reason. His shot stopping capability, his presence in a one-on-one… all of his attributes were better than those of past goalkeepers.
How popular was Mannone with the fans during his time at Minnesota?
Fan favourite: two words that would easily describe Vito’s time in MN. He gave out gloves or a jersey to kids supporting him in nearly every match. Regardless of the outcome, he’d go take pictures with the fans. Vito is all-around a really good guy. He’s someone who adores his fans and loves sharing his time with them. Minnesota supporters absolutely loved Vito and I know that there is a large presence of fans who would love to see him return.
What would you say his biggest strengths and weaknesses were?
Vito’s biggest strengths would be his shot-stopping capability from short range and one-on-one situations. He’s quick, agile and has really great box awareness. At times, he would get caught out of position on a set piece or from a long-distance shot; that would probably be his biggest weakness.
Overall though, he’s someone who will put forth his best effort week after week. There’s zero doubt in my mind that his passion for the game is the reason why he’s had such a successful career. Strengths and weakness are part of every footballers game.
Was he a deserving winner of the MLS Goalkeeper of the Year?
Vito winning GOTY was a warranted selection, however, most media were rather surprised at the vote. He was a bit of an under-the-radar goalkeeper for the league this season. If you watched him consistently, you knew how good he was. He definitely was deserving of the award though.