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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The blowing snow and subzero windchills outside your door might make it seem like January, but a glance at the calendar shows that Minnesota United has just two weeks left of preseason training, and then it's game week. A couple of quick notes:
Waiting For Altman: When I asked Manny Lagos about Kyle Altman at the beginning of the offseason, his response started with four fairly meaningful words: "He is our captain." Altman, however, is close to realizing his MLS dreams. He's been on trial with Portland for over two weeks now, and if the Timbers weren't semi-serious about signing him, they'd likely have moved him along.
Altman played in a reserve-team game Sunday, a game in which he helped Portland's reserves keep a clean sheet in a 1-0 win over Seattle's reserves, and he was back in training with the club on Monday. Also on Monday, according to SB Nation Portland blog Stumptown Footy, the Timbers announced that center back Hanyer Mosquera had been granted an indefinite leave of absence. The team later clarified that Mosquera remained on the roster, but Altman would be a natural fit to replace him. Portland is at the maximum number of contracts, but even if Mosquera stays on that list, there has been speculation that they could release center back Futty Danso to make room for Altman.
Center back remains a question for Minnesota - something it seldom was with Altman in the lineup. And even if Altman doesn't end up signing permanently for the Timbers, he could still choose to go to medical school - or sign with any other team, as he's a free agent and isn't on the United books. We wait anxiously to find out what will happen with Minnesota's - for the moment, former - captain.
Closing The Doors On The Indoor Season: Center back Cristiano Dias and midfielder Lucas Rodriguez finished up their indoor soccer season on Saturday, as their Missouri Comets lost to the Baltimore Blast in the league championship series. Rodriguez is getting in a short vacation, and I'm told Dias isn't back in training yet with United either. With all the new faces in the team, time is running short to get everyone on the same page - and with the spring season only twelve games long, United can't afford to spend the first months of the season getting to know each other.
A Cold Omaha: United's scheduled for its second training trip of the season this weekend, as they head for Omaha. The team is scheduled to leave Thursday, train in Omaha that day, play at Creighton University on Friday night, then scrimmage a local college - potentially Nebraska-Omaha - on Saturday morning before coming back.
The one problem: it doesn't look like it'll be a heck of a lot warmer in Omaha than it will be in Minneapolis, with high temperatures predicted to hover around 32 degrees. I'm not sure if Creighton has an indoor field available, but even if they do, part of the point of going south for training is to play on a full field - given the weather here, something United is almost certain to be unable to do at home before Opening Day. But with guys still working up to their full fitness, is it a good idea to send everyone outside in sub-freezing temperatures?
Facial Furniture: And finally, to see pictorial evidence of Connor Tobin's tremendous mustache, click here.