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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Not that preseason victory totals particularly matter, but it was still nice to see Minnesota United in the win column over the weekend. United beat Creighton 4-0 on Friday night, then beat a team of former professionals 6-2 (or possibly 7-2, head coach Manny Lagos wasn't sure) on Saturday before making the trip back.
I caught up with Lagos Monday by phone; he was already in Mexico City, having made the trip for the US Men's National Team's World Cup qualifier tonight. A few notes from that conversation:
Give Them A Break: Lagos gave the players a couple of days off following the Omaha trip, sensing some tired legs - in part, due to training conditions. According to Lagos, he'd planned out a preseason that involved 32+ training sessions, 12-15 of which were going to be on grass - something that had happened precisely zero times so far in this cold, snowy March.
"That's not to say my guys don't want to play on turf, it's part of the game," he said. "But that's a lot of wear and tear on your body."
He mentioned that forward/winger Max Griffin didn't travel with the team to Omaha, due to a hamstring pull, but had no other injury news of note from the trip.
Getting To Know You: Lagos mentioned several times that, as much as anything, these training games give the team a chance to find "relationships" on the field - none probably more important than the relationship between the center backs. Connor Tobin and Ernest Tchoupe struggled together the previous week against Bridges FC, so Friday, Lagos threw together Tobin and Kevin Friedland, and was impressed with the result. "Kevin has had a very good preseason, we wanted to see what his relationship with Connor was, and they did very well together," said Lagos.
Center back is very much up in the air for Minnesota, and I suspect that whoever plays there on Friday will start the season opener the following week. The three mentioned are in the mix, as well as Cristiano Dias, who's still coming back from his indoor season.
Making The Push: Lagos mentioned Kevin Venegas, who has moved from midfield to fullback this year, and midfielder Michael Reed as particularly impressive players who have made a push in the preseason. "They're just young guys that have approached the preseason really well, the right way, which is pushing the older guys every day," said the head coach.
Summer Friendly Announced: NetNewsLedger.com, a Thunder Bay news site, is reporting that United will visit the Thunder Bay Chill on July 23 for a friendly. The NASL is taking the month of July off between the spring and fall halves of the season; this is the first exhibition match announced for the team during that vacation period.
Programming Note: Coming up this afternoon, we'll get in the spirit for tonight's game against Mexico with local media celebrity Dana Wessel's story of his trip to Denver for USA's Friday-night Blizzard win over Costa Rica.