In the first two years of the NASL, every team played 28 games in the regular season. There was time for teams that made bad starts to regroup, time for teams that shot out of the starting gate to come back to the pack, time for adjustments and for retooling midseason.
It all seems positively languid, compared to this season in the NASL. The spring season is just 12 games long, removing any time for reflection or slow turnarounds, and only the champion makes the playoffs.
One or two bad losses is enough to take a team out of contention, in this kind of setup. Even too many draws instead of wins is enough to doom a team. And so United center back Kyle Altman is having none of the received wisdom that a draw, on the road, would be good enough. "If you want to win this league, you've got to get results on the road," he said. "If we can win in Atlanta, it'll send a message. I don't see any reason why we shouldn't be able to pick up three points."
The Silverbacks scored six goals in their first two games, including a four-goal outburst in Tampa Bay, one that saw them erase a 3-1 halftime deficit to win 4-3. Minnesota, though, has the league's only perfect defensive record - two games, no goals allowed - and, for Altman, familiarity breeds success.
"It's chemistry," he said. "We have the same back four that we had last year. We have a good relationship with [midfielder Michael] Reed, we're developing a good relationship with Pitch [midfielder Aaron Pitchkolan] and [goalkeeper] Daryl [Sattler]. And we have outside mids and attacking players that are willing to put the work in to cut down the options. It makes it a lot easier for us at the back to defend. Defending is really a team effort."
Even returning heros need to work
Striker Pablo Campos, having served his two-game suspension for a red card in last year's playoffs, is finally eligible to put on a Minnesota jersey in a regular-season game. Saturday could be the first chance to see his attacking partnership with Etienne Barbara.
If it happens, it should be great, right? Head coach Manny Lagos isn't ready to say so.
"The tendency is to have the attitude that [just getting players in the lineup] should make you better, but the reality is that everybody's got to get a little bit better," he said. "To play at the level you want, the level that everybody's expecting when you have good players on the field, it only works if everyone decides to get better individually, and that's even the two guys coming in. That's really what the mindset should be."
Sure, Manny. Spoil everyone's excitement.
Let it snow?
It's impossible to look at our awful April weather and not wonder what Minnesota will do for the early part of the 2014 season, when the luxury of playing in the Metrodome won't be available. Team owner Bill McGuire said that while the team has thought about it, they are "not in position to make very concrete conclusions yet."
McGuire said the team has considered the possibility of renting an outdoor field that's equipped with FieldTurf, such as TCF Bank Stadium. They're also considering the old Minnesota standby: playing the first month of the season on the road. That said, McGuire noted that with both Ottawa and Edmonton in the league for 2014, Minnesota might not be first in line for NASL's scheduling considerations.
- Midfielder Bryan Arguez's quadriceps is the early leader for this season's "Balkiest Minnesota United Body Part" award. He's still sidelined with a strain.
- Current backup goalkeeper Matt Van Oekel dislocated his thumb this week, and didn't travel to Atlanta with the team.
- Etienne Barbara is listed as "probable" this week, after missing last week's game with a lower hamstring / knee issue.
Time: 6:30pm. Location: Atlanta Silverbacks Park, Chamblee, GA. TV: Live stream available on MNUnitedFC.com.