You know the preseason is officially underway once the team heads out on the road for a few exhibition matches, and United FC is on the first trip of its spring training, a five-day jaunt to Kansas City. The trip kicked off Wednesday, as Minnesota lost to Major League Soccer side Sporting Kansas City, 2-1, in a practice, no-fans match.
The Loons - still getting used to typing that - played a first eleven for 60 minutes, then substituted an entire second eleven for the final half-hour, and it was the second 11 that got the goal. New signing Max Griffin combined with fellow new signing Etienne Barbara for a 75th minute strike, but Griffin's goal came after United had already fallen behind 2-0 to goals from Soony Saad and Yaan Songo'o.
Goals from guys with clearly fake names aside, a couple of notes on the game yesterday:
- I talked to head coach Manny Lagos, and he cautioned that there's not too much to be read into the lineups from yesterday. His three main goals? "Get out there and compete, on a full field - since we don't have access to one in Minnesota - and just get to know each other a little bit."
- With Cristiano Dias still playing indoor soccer, Ernest Tchoupe started in central defense, alongside Connor Tobin. Tchoupe, Dias, and Tobin are likely to be the three guys in the mix for the center back slots.
- Similarly, Kevin Venegas - previously mostly a midfielder - is set to provide some cover for outside backs Justin Davis and Brian Kallman. Venegas came on with the second group in defense.
- Nate Polak started on the wing, where he's not a natural fit - he's much more a target-forward type. Lagos says he's definitely more of a center forward, but he's got the workrate to get in on the wing and "put in a shift" out there.
- Lagos singled out Luis Heitor-Piffer as the most impressive of the triallists. "We had him play left back, and he showed great versatility there, playing against some real quality players in the lineup for Sporting," said Lagos. The coach also mentioned Griffin, the goalscorer, as a guy who's been very impressive so far in the preseason.
United is next in action Friday, when they will play an exhibition against the University of Missouri - Kansas City. They'll return home early Saturday.
The Loons will also make a trip to Omaha in the third week of March, where they will play exhibitions against Creighton and Hastings College, and a final trip at the end of the month for another practice match against MLS's Chicago Fire.
A few other notes:
- Goalkeeper Daryl Sattler didn't play Wednesday due to a hamstring issue, and it's likely he won't be training or playing on this Kansas City trip.
- Brian Kallman's brother Brent, who played four years at Creighton, has joined up with the team as a triallist. He'll play Friday night against UMKC, according to Lagos.
- The team is headed off tonight to watch Dias and midfielder Lucas Rodriguez play for the Missouri Comets in the Major Indoor Soccer League playoffs. Dias and Rodriguez were at the match Wednesday, and now the rest of the team will return the favor tonight. I'm sure there will be no heckling whatsoever.
- Former Minnesota center back Kyle Altman is still training with the Portland Timbers in MLS, and there might be an opening. Mikael Silvestre, who played for years with Manchester United, made his Portland debut at center back last weekend - and had an absolutely terrible game, with his mistakes leading to a pair of goals against. Timbers blog Stumptown Footy referred to Silvestre as "not ready for MLS", and Altman - who was in the NASL Best XI last year - might have him beat there.
- Local marketing company Zeus Jones put up a blog post about the process they went through to create the new United logo and look.