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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Friday, the Stars announced the signing of Max Griffin, a striker who played last season for Orlando City and the LA Blues in the third-tier USL Pro league. A few North American Soccer League fans might remember him from 2010, when he was the Rookie of the Year with the Austin Aztex in the NASL's precursor league, the USSF 2nd Division. Griffin, who stuck with the Austin franchise as it moved to Orlando for 2011, and who went on loan to the LA Blues for part of last season, has scored 27 goals over the past three seasons - 11 apiece in 2010 and 2011, and five last year.
The move also gives Minnesota yet another option in the attack. At the beginning of the offseason, the Stars had just Nate Polak and Travis Wall on their forward depth chart, but the signings of Griffin, Pablo Campos, and Etienne Barbara, as well as the re-signing of Simone Bracalello, mean that the worry has now become how all of these players will find minutes.
Given the troubles that the team had with scoring goals last year, though, it's probably a good problem for them to have. And perhaps head coach Manny Lagos is cooking up some sort of 3-2-5 formation that will revolutionize the game.
Griffin joined the team for training on Friday, making Barbara the only player under contract that has yet to make it to practice... The team played some nine-man, indoor, 35-minute mini-games at the National Sports Center Friday, giving the team its first chance for something approaching real soccer. Griffin, clearly in shape, led all scorers with four goals in his 70 minutes, and new signings Campos and Aaron Pitchkolan scored twice apiece. Lagos also got a few minutes, even hitting the crossbar himself with a long shot, thus making us wonder if another player-coach is in the Stars' future... former Minnesota Thunder midfielder Zafer Kilickan, now an assistant women's soccer coach at Augsburg, made an appearance to help fill out one of the mini-game teams.