Frequent contributor Jon Marthaler has written about virtually every sport in the Twin Cities, and fills in on Saturdays for the RandBall blog on StarTribune.com. He'll cover the professional soccer scene in the Twin Cities, whether at the Metrodome or at the National Sports Center.

Email Jon to talk about soccer.

United opens at home Saturday after two road wins

Posted by: Jon Marthaler under On the road, Soccer Updated: April 25, 2014 - 10:17 AM

When the NASL schedule was released, Minnesota soccer fans were greeted with a familiar list of early-season road games. With the exception of Metrodome home games, United (and its predecessor teams) have generally always opened on the road, owing to the usual terrible April weather in the state.

This season, though, a two-game road trip to open the season seemed especially onerous. With just nine games in the spring season, a two-game slide would be enough to knock a team out of contention for the playoff spot awarded to the first-half winner; United couldn't afford to start slow, even though they were the only NASL team to play on the road in both of the first two weeks.

In the event, though, no one need have worried. After a 2-0 win at San Antonio, and a 2-1 last-gasp victory in Ottawa, United sits tied atop the NASL standings with New York. The odd number of games in the first half means that this has hardly provided Minnesota with an advantage - they still have three road games remaining, against four home games - but things could have been so much worse.

A look north of the border

Edmonton, Saturday night's opponent, began 2014 in their usual style - by which I mean they drew 1-1 with Tampa Bay. (11 of Edmonton's 26 matches last year finished 1-1, including five in a row at one point.) They changed things up with a 1-0 home loss to New York last week, though, and are ahead of just the league's two zero-point teams, Atlanta and Ottawa.

The 'Montons (as the local du Nord Futbol Show calls them) also are coming off a midweek match; they played Ottawa on Wednesday in the first leg of a Canadian Championship match. (For the un-informed: the five Canadian MLS and NASL teams play a tournament to not only determine the championship of Canada, but to determine the nation's entrant into the CONCACAF Champions League.) This was - perhaps expectedly - a draw; at least it was 0-0 instead of 1-1.

Edmonton divested itself of talented malcontent Shaun Saiko in the offseason, and lost midfielder Chris Nurse as well. Their problem, however, has always been in scoring goals, and they've made several moves to try to combat that; they've brought in the 6'3" Frank Jonke as a target forward, and English League 2 veteran Ritchie Jones to play behind him as an attacking midfielder. Former Atlanta striker Horace James has also joined to play on the right wing, with Daryl Fordyce returning this year in a role on the left side. Former Minnesota midfielder Neil Hlavaty returns in a defensive-midfield role, and Albert Watson is also back to lead the Edmonton back line.

The Eddies, from Edmonton, also signed a player named Eddie Edward. I'm pretty sure this was a "Kids in the Hall" sketch.

Field looking good for Saturday night

Despite earlier assurances, I still had some concern about the National Sports Center field. Grass has yet to begin growing in earnest in most places in Minnesota, and it was legitimate to wonder if the Blaine field would be mostly green-painted dirt.

NSC spokesman Barclay Kruse reports, however, that the field is in excellent condition, and is already noticeably greener. He sent along the below pictures, which were taken before the midweek rains and today's sun; no doubt things will be looking even better by game time tomorrow night.

Slight changes at NSC for 2014

Apart from the field, the stadium is in similar shape to last year. One change, though, is that the bleachers on the north end of the field - the Building End - have been removed, and moved to the south "Airport End" of the field. (NOTE: These End names are works in progress. Feel free to leave your suggestions in the comments.)

The beer garden on the north end will be expanded, with the removal of the bleachers; in fact, the team's cheapest season ticket allows you to stand in the beer garden all year for $100, if you so desire. The beer garden itself will again be sponsored by Anheuser-Busch, and I'm told the beers available will be Bud, Bud Light, Shock Top Lemon, and Goose Island (possibly the 312 Pale Ale offering from the now-A/B-owned brewery.)

Match details

Gates open at 5:30 tomorrow night, with the game at 7pm. The first 5,000 fans will get a Star Tribune schedule poster. For those who can't make it to Blaine, the game, along with all of the team's home games this year, is on KSTC Channel 45.

No one from United dares speculate on the size of tomorrow night's crowd, possibly because they are afraid of jinxing things. Here's a few numbers for you, and you may judge them as you will:

  • Last season, United drew 6,754 to their home opener against San Antonio.
  • United's biggest crowd at the National Sports Center last year was for their July 4 game against Atlanta, in front of 6,507.
  • Last year's home game against Edmonton - also in late April - drew 4,135 to the Metrodome.
  • Indy leads the league in attendance, averaging 10,910 fans through two home dates.
  • New York (7,906), San Antonio (7,381) and Tampa Bay (7,003) also drew more than seven thousand fans to their home openers.
  • On the flip side, Carolina drew just 4,007, and Fort Lauderdale brought up the rear at 3,105.

Paul Douglas's Star Tribune forecast calls for a high temperature of 58 on Saturday, with clouds and a chance of some post-game rain.

ADVERTISEMENT

NY Mets - LP: J. Familia 6 FINAL
Miami - WP: A. Ramos 9
Philadelphia - WP: C. Hamels 7 FINAL
Atlanta - LP: J. Teheran 0
Boston - LP: B. Badenhop 3 FINAL
Tampa Bay - WP: G. Balfour 4
Minnesota - WP: P. Hughes 6 FINAL
Baltimore - LP: K. Gausman 4
Pittsburgh - LP: G. Cole 4 FINAL
St. Louis - WP: S. Maness 5
Milwaukee - LP: J. Nelson 2 FINAL
Chicago Cubs - WP: J. Turner 4
Detroit - WP: D. Price 12 FINAL
Cleveland - LP: C. Kluber 1
Seattle - LP: C. Young 1 FINAL
Oakland - WP: J. Hammel 6
San Francisco - WP: J. Affeldt 4 FINAL
Colorado - LP: C. Friedrich 2
Arizona - LP: T. Cahill 1 FINAL
San Diego - WP: T. Ross 3
San Francisco 7 Bottom 8th Inning
Colorado 9
Washington 1 Top 3rd Inning
Los Angeles 2
Texas 0 Bottom 3rd Inning
Kansas City 1
Green Bay 9/4/14 7:30 PM
Seattle
Buffalo 9/7/14 12:00 PM
Chicago
New Orleans 9/7/14 12:00 PM
Atlanta
Minnesota 9/7/14 12:00 PM
St. Louis
Cleveland 9/7/14 12:00 PM
Pittsburgh
Jacksonville 9/7/14 12:00 PM
Philadelphia
Oakland 9/7/14 12:00 PM
NY Jets
Cincinnati 9/7/14 12:00 PM
Baltimore
Washington 9/7/14 12:00 PM
Houston
Tennessee 9/7/14 12:00 PM
Kansas City
New England 9/7/14 12:00 PM
Miami
Carolina 9/7/14 3:25 PM
Tampa Bay
San Francisco 9/7/14 3:25 PM
Dallas
Indianapolis 9/7/14 7:30 PM
Denver
Utah State 7 FINAL
Tennessee 38
SMU 0 FINAL
(10) Baylor 45
Miami-Florida 7 2nd Qtr 14:07
Louisville 7
Arizona 9/4/14 7:00 PM
TX-San Antonio
Pittsburgh 9/5/14 6:00 PM
Boston College
Washington St 9/5/14 9:30 PM
Nevada
SMU 9/6/14 11:00 AM
North Texas
Fla Atlantic 9/6/14 11:00 AM
(2) Alabama
Buffalo 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Army
(24) Missouri 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Toledo
Arkansas State 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Tennessee
(7) McNeese State 9/6/14 11:00 AM
(22) Nebraska
Central Mich 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Purdue
Akron 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Penn State
Western Ill 9/6/14 11:00 AM
(14) Wisconsin
(20) Kansas State 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Iowa State
(4) Oklahoma 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Tulsa
Western Ky 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Illinois
SC State 9/6/14 11:30 AM
(16) Clemson
Navy 9/6/14 12:00 PM
Temple
UAB 9/6/14 1:00 PM
Miss State
South Alabama 9/6/14 1:00 PM
Kent State
New Mexico St 9/6/14 1:00 PM
Georgia State
Colorado 9/6/14 2:00 PM
Massachusetts
Fresno State 9/6/14 2:00 PM
Utah
(2) Eastern Wash 9/6/14 2:00 PM
(25) Washington
(15) USC 9/6/14 2:30 PM
(11) Stanford
Ohio U 9/6/14 2:30 PM
Kentucky
Middle Tennessee 9/6/14 2:30 PM
Minnesota
Northern Ill 9/6/14 2:30 PM
Northwestern
Missouri State 9/6/14 2:30 PM
Oklahoma State
Ball State 9/6/14 2:30 PM
Iowa
Maryland 9/6/14 2:30 PM
So Florida
Eastern Mich 9/6/14 3:00 PM
Florida
Georgia Tech 9/6/14 3:00 PM
Tulane
(18) Ole Miss 9/6/14 3:30 PM
Vanderbilt
Old Dominion 9/6/14 5:00 PM
NC State
(8) Michigan State 9/6/14 5:30 PM
(3) Oregon
(19) Arizona State 9/6/14 6:00 PM
New Mexico
Louisiana Tech 9/6/14 6:00 PM
Louisiana
San Jose St 9/6/14 6:00 PM
(6) Auburn
East Carolina 9/6/14 6:00 PM
(9) So Carolina
Duke 9/6/14 6:00 PM
Troy
Idaho 9/6/14 6:00 PM
ULM
(15) Sam Houston St 9/6/14 6:30 PM
(13) LSU
Michigan 9/6/14 6:30 PM
(17) Notre Dame
Lamar 9/6/14 6:30 PM
(21) Texas A&M
Northwestern St 9/6/14 6:30 PM
(10) Baylor
BYU 9/6/14 6:30 PM
Texas
Citadel 9/6/14 6:30 PM
(1) Florida State
San Diego St 9/6/14 7:00 PM
(23) North Carolina
Virginia Tech 9/6/14 7:00 PM
(5) Ohio State
Memphis 9/6/14 9:00 PM
(7) UCLA
Colorado State 9/6/14 9:15 PM
Boise State
Air Force 9/6/14 9:15 PM
Wyoming
Oregon State 9/6/14 9:30 PM
Hawaii
Texas Tech 9/6/14 10:00 PM
Texas-El Paso
Ottawa 10 FINAL
Montreal 20
Winnipeg 30 FINAL
Saskatchewan 35
Toronto 12 FINAL
Hamilton 13
Edmonton 13 FINAL
Calgary 28
Indiana 84 FINAL
Chicago 86

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: How many fantasy football teams do you draft?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT