Minnesota United added another Finnish national-team member on Thursday, acquiring the rights of MLS veteran defender and former Montreal captain Jukka Raitala in a trade.
Raitala, 32, started 63 of 69 games played for the Impact the last three seasons. Before that, the former German Bundesliga and Finnish leagues player was with Columbus Crew for 28 games in 2017.
He is projected primarily as a left back, where the Loons have starter Chase Gasper and center back Bakaye Dibassy who also can play that position if needed. But Raitala plays right back for Finland and can play all along the back line.
"I cover several positions, which I see as a big strength for myself," Raitala said in an interview conducted by a Minnesota United employee. "Good thing I'm that way. I'm very flexible."
Raitala's contract expired after last season. He will join Finnish national teammate Robin Lod in Minnesota after he signed a new contract with the Loons. Raitala will take up an international roster spot.
Loons coach Adrian Heath, in a team statement, called Raitala an "incredibly valuable player" who knows and understands MLS and has more than a decade of national-team experience.
"We know what to expect from him from day one here in Minnesota," Heath said. "I've always said the best thing for players is competition and we have no doubt he will come here expecting to play and elevate our club and community."
The Loons traded the rights to 2020 SuperDraft pick Andrew Booth for Raitala's rights.
Raitala made his national team debut in 2009 at age 20. He has played more than 50 international games for a Finland team that has qualified for this summer's UEFA Euro championship, its first major tournament appearance in more than 100 years.
Raitala's arrival follows the signing of veteran defensive midfielder Wil Trapp and a trade with Dallas for defender Callum Montgomery, the fourth overall pick in MLS' 2019 SuperDraft.
MLS teams are scheduled to begin training Feb. 22. The regular season is set to begin the weekend of April 3-4, about one more later than normal because of the COVID-19 lengthened 2020 season.