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.

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Two Minnesota natives in U-20 World Cup Qualifying

Posted by: Jon Marthaler under Soccer Updated: February 22, 2013 - 8:35 AM

Not a lot for Stars news today, except that goalkeeper Matt Van Oekel has been cut from DC United training camp, according to Steven Goff of the Washington Post. Van Oekel, who recently signed a contract extension with Minnesota, had been a candidate to back up at DCU in the short term, but instead will join the Stars as they get set for preseason training.

All of that said, if you're looking for a locally-interesting soccer fix to interrupt your February snowstorms, check out the Fox Soccer channel tonight at 6:30 - and keep your eyes out for a couple of Minnesotans.

Local soccer expert Brian Quarstad wrote in to note that the US Under-20 men's national team is currently in Mexico, competing in the final round of qualifying for this summer's U-20 World Cup. Four of the twelve teams from the CONCACAF region qualify for the main event, meaning that the US needs to reach the semifinals to earn a June trip to Turkey for the finals.

Cody Cropper, a Maple Grove native who is currently with Southampton in the Premier League, is the starting keeper for the team, and made three saves in the team's 2-1 win over Haiti on Monday. Impressively, Cropper's been around the team for a long time - he made his first starts for the U-20s in 2010, when he was just 17 years old. Team coach Tab Ramos - and there's a name for those of us who were introduced to soccer by the 1990 and 1994 World Cup - says of Cropper, "He's a player who has been here before, and that is tremendous value for us besides the fact that he's a great goalkeeper."

Eric Miller, a defender from Woodbury, didn't play in Monday's opening matchup for the team, but he has started three of the seven games the U-20 team has played so far in 2012. He's in the middle of his sophomore year at Creighton. Says Ramos, "Eric is a very hard worker - he gets up and down the line very well, he defends well, he's good in the air. He can also play at center back, so that's very important for us."

Quarstad noted that the U-20 team looked disorganized defensively on Monday, so there might be an opening for Miller tonight; we'll have to see. Cropper is likely to be in goal, so either way, you're likely to be able to check out some Minnesotan soccer, clad in a USA jersey.

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