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

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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.


New England 2/1/15 5:30 PM
Portland 0 Postponed
Brooklyn 0
Sacramento 0 Postponed
New York 0
Philadelphia 74 FINAL
New Orleans 99
Minnesota 84 FINAL
Oklahoma City 92
Orlando 94 FINAL
Memphis 103
Boston 99 FINAL
Utah 90
Denver 98 FINAL
LA Clippers 102
Army 68 FINAL
American Univ 66
Wright State 64 FINAL
Detroit 53
Syracuse 83 FINAL
North Carolina 93
Cleveland State 56 FINAL
Oakland 59
Delaware State 54 FINAL
NC Central 55
High Point 63 FINAL
Presbyterian 54
Howard 45 FINAL
Bethune-Cookman 42
Coppin State 84 FINAL
NC A&T 71
Nicholls 51 FINAL
Northwestern St 80
Hampton 56 FINAL
SC State 65
Gardner-Webb 59 FINAL
Campbell 78
MD-Eastern Shore 72 FINAL
Florida A&M 65
Stephen F Austin 82 FINAL
Lamar 65
Central Arkansas 67 FINAL
New Orleans 87
Norfolk State 70 FINAL
Savannah State 54
SE Louisiana 61
Sam Houston St 80 FINAL
Abilene Christian 63
McNeese State 84 FINAL
Incarnate Word 86
Milwaukee 48 FINAL
Valparaiso 73
Alcorn State 66 FINAL
Alabama A&M 78
Southern U 59 FINAL
Alabama State 63
Prairie View 68 FINAL
Ark-Pine Bluff 105
Texas 86 FINAL
Iowa State 89
Texas Southern 85 FINAL
Miss Valley St 84
Long Island 85 FINAL
Bryant 88
Central Conn St 51 FINAL
St Francis-NY 49
Fairleigh Dickinson 0 Postponed
Sacred Heart 0
St Francis-PA 87 FINAL
Wagner 74
Delaware State 59 FINAL
NC Central 66
Howard 53 FINAL
Bethune-Cookman 61
Coppin State 49 FINAL
NC A&T 67
Hampton 88 FINAL
SC State 53
Norfolk State 54 FINAL
Savannah State 56
MD-Eastern Shore 54 FINAL
Florida A&M 64
Angelo State 55 FINAL
Abilene Christian 70
Samford 32 FINAL
(25) Chattanooga 49
Prairie View 83 FINAL
Ark-Pine Bluff 66
Alcorn State 58 FINAL
Alabama A&M 55
Southern U 53 FINAL
Alabama State 49
Texas Southern 63 FINAL
Miss Valley St 52
(12) Texas A&M 61 FINAL
(1) South Carolina 79
Robert Morris 68 FINAL
Mount St Marys 44
East Tenn St 72 FINAL
Mercer 70
Wofford 56 FINAL
Furman 58
Morehead St 64 FINAL
Tenn Tech 54
Illinois 57 FINAL
Michigan 70
Quinnipiac 0 Postponed
Manhattan 0
Saint Peters 0 Postponed
Rider 0
(18) Miss State 59 FINAL
Auburn 48
(15) Nebraska 72 FINAL
(20) Iowa 78


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