Kevin Friedland has just about done it all during his decadelong career in Minnesota; he’s been a player, an assistant coach, a front-office executive and a jersey maker, among other roles. Saturday, in Friedland’s last home game before retiring as a player, center back Connor Tobin limped off in the 22nd minute of United’s 3-1 victory over Fort Lauderdale — giving Friedland one more chance to fill whatever role the team might need.
“I didn’t see Connor pull up,” Friedland said, “and [head coach] Manny [Lagos] turned to me and said, ‘Let’s go.’ And I was thinking, I didn’t get a warm-up in.”
Though it seemed certain that Friedland would play on Saturday, he might not have expected to get 70 minutes. “I guess Connor might have had that planned,” he said. “I wish he would have told me a little sooner.“
Pablo Campos got the scoring started early for United, banging home his 10th goal of the year in the 10th minute of the match. Lucas Rodriguez one-timed a ball across the face of the goal, and Campos was first on the end of it to score.
Fort Lauderdale leveled the match 12 minutes later, when Carlos Salazar fired home Minnesota’s half-clearance, but just before halftime, United went back in front. Campos fought off a pair of defenders to head down a corner kick directly to Aaron Pitchkolan, who elbowed aside a defender of his own and poked the ball home.
Campos finished off the scoring in the 75th minute, taking advantage of a miscommunication between three Strikers defenders and rolling a shot past Fort Lauderdale keeper Richard Sanchez, who was caught flat-footed.
The story of the night, though, was Friedland, who was serenaded by the home crowd throughout much of the game. Given the team’s uncertain ownership situation for several years leading up to Bill McGuire purchasing the team before this year, it’s not too much to say that Friedland’s willingness to do anything asked of him is one of the reasons that Minnesota still has a pro soccer team.
“He wants soccer to do well in this community; it’s more than just the playing side of it,” Lagos said. “I’ve always said there’s very few people that could have the selflessness to do the job the right way, and he’s always approached it professionally.”
All in all, it was a fitting end to Friedland’s home career. “It’s a good way to go out,” he said. “We’re sending the fans home happy.”