Keeper Hildebrandt making most of his chance to start for United

  • Article by: MEGAN RYAN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: August 8, 2014 - 9:00 PM

Mitch Hildebrandt is 7-1-2 since getting a chance to start in goal for United FC.


United FC goalkeeper Mitch Hildebrandt, a former backup, is making the most of his chance to start for the NASL team this season.

Photo: Photo courtesy of Shelly Yang,

CameraStar Tribune photo galleries

Cameraview larger


Comedian Dane Cook has a popular joke about the board game Monopoly — it always ends with profanity-laced rants and playing pieces thrown across the room.

When Minnesota United FC goalkeeper Mitch Hildebrandt plays The Settlers of Catan with his roommate, midfielder Michael Reed, that joke becomes all too real.

“He gets so close to winning,” Reed said. “And almost after every game … he just starts cussing his mouth off.”

Hildebrandt said he was told even back in elementary school that he was too competitive, but he just hates losing.

“I get to the point where I want to flip the board over because he always wins,” Hildebrandt said.

While that aggressive streak may go overboard during a no-stakes pastime, Hildebrandt’s need to be the best has served him well in his soccer career. The 25-year-old has recently won the starting position over Matt VanOekel after largely serving as the veteran’s backup in his first two seasons with the Loons.

VanOekel was injured May 24 against the Carolina RailHawks. Now fully recovered, he hasn’t played except for appearances as a substitute in July exhibition games against the under-21 Mexican national team and Swansea City.

United coach Manny Lagos said both Hildebrandt and VanOekel are No. 1 goalkeepers, and that the starting choice just depends on who’s playing better. Since the Carolina game with Hildebrandt playing, United is 7-1-2.

“Competition is … always tough on any player, particularly goalies, though, because you’re only competing for one spot,” Lagos said. “Some of the guys are competing for maybe several spots on the field when you’re a field player. My heart goes out to them as a goalie because that’s got to be tough to handle mentally.”

Hildebrandt said he’s used to the pressure. He’s been playing keeper since age 2 when his older brother would prop him up on the sofa and shoot soccer balls at him.

“Having two goalkeepers always vying for a spot really helps you because you don’t have time to be content with anything,” Hildebrandt said. “You always know that somebody’s pushing you.”

Goalkeeping coach Paul O’Connor said both Hildebrandt and VanOekel put the competition aside to be good training partners, which is good considering they can learn from each other. O’Connor said Hildebrandt’s strengths are his footwork, speed and work ethic. VanOekel’s are his hands, communication and ability to distribute the ball 70 to 80 yards.

Hildebrandt is improving his distribution and on-field interaction, but much of that comes with experience, O’Connor said. Hildebrandt is hard on himself, which is good in practice but can snowball into mistakes in game.

While Hildebrandt may be intense on the pitch and during board games, he’s usually pretty laid back. Reed said there’s an impression in the couch where Hildebrandt sits for hours playing video games or watching football.

“I put so much in training that I like to just kind of relax the rest of the day,” Hildebrandt said. “I’m actually kind of a very boring person when it comes down to it.”

  • related content

  • Gameday preview: Edmonton at United

    Friday August 8, 2014

    united gameday7 P.M. VS. EDMONTON • NATIONAL SPORTS CENTER STADIUM, BLAINEWatch: Ch. 45 or subscription web stream at The...

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions


Atlanta - WP: E. Stults 4 FINAL
Detroit - LP: J. Chamberlain 2
Washington - LP: X. Cedeno 2 FINAL
St. Louis - WP: M. Wacha 6
Philadelphia 4 FINAL
Pittsburgh 18
Baltimore 6 FINAL
Tampa Bay 6
Miami - LP: D. Haren 1 FINAL
NY Mets - WP: R. Montero 7
San Diego 6 FINAL
Cincinnati 3
San Francisco 5 FINAL
Chicago Cubs 8
Colorado 2 FINAL
Oakland 11
LA Angels - LP: N. Tropeano 3 FINAL
Seattle - WP: T. Walker 5
Cleveland 4 FINAL
Chicago WSox 1
Kansas City 11 FINAL
Texas 7
Los Angeles 4 FINAL
Arizona 2
Toronto 7 FINAL
Houston 4
Minnesota - LP: C. Johnson 2 FINAL
Boston - WP: J. Masterson 14
Boston 116 FINAL
Charlotte 104
LA Lakers 113 FINAL
Philadelphia 111
Houston 96 FINAL
Toronto 99
Milwaukee 88 FINAL
Atlanta 101
Sacramento 83 FINAL
Memphis 97
Utah 104 FINAL
Minnesota 84
Phoenix 86 FINAL
Portland 109
Tampa Bay 5 FINAL
Montreal 3
Vancouver 4 FINAL
St. Louis 1
Calgary 5 FINAL
Dallas 3
Los Angeles 1 FINAL
Chicago 4
Edmonton 4 FINAL
Colorado 1
Buffalo 4 FINAL
Arizona 1
Loyola-Chicago 65
Dayton 70 FINAL
(1) Connecticut 91
(6) Tennessee 48 FINAL
(4) Maryland 58


question of the day

Poll: Who are you rooting for in the NCAA Final Four?

Weekly Question





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