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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United 1, Chicago 0: Miguel Ibarra scored the game's only goal, as United beat Major League Soccer's Chicago Fire 1-0 on Friday morning. The win wraps up the team's preseason slate, which saw them beat the Chicago Fire, Bridges FC, and Creighton University, while dropping matches to Missouri-Kansas City and Sporting KC.
As for the Chicago win, don't think for a minute that it doesn't mean something for these guys to beat an MLS side. Even in preseason. Even in an exhibition. Chicago didn't put out a half-strength side - eight of their starting eleven were in the team the previous Sunday, when the Fire lost 4-1 to Chivas. Those guys - especially the ones who are trying to make the MLS leap - want very badly to show off in a game like this.
The win is an also excellent boost for a Minnesota team that knows it needs to get early momentum for the season. A championship and a title-match loss have covered it up a bit, but Minnesota's coming off two straight seasons of finishing sixth in an eight-team league. The new NASL format, with one spring champion and another fall champion, mean that the days of backing into the playoffs are over, and clearly that's been a theme of the preseason. Every player I've talked to has spoken about the league format and how it necessitates a fast start in April.
Come on and take one: United will announce today that they've worked out a deal with Metro Transit for free bus and train rides to all five Metrodome games. For more, click here.
Blessed are the jersey-makers: United assistant coach / defender / everything else Kevin Friedland tweeted a couple of pictures of a jersey press, along with the message, "Over 300 presses and a whole lot more to go." The team won't have its super-cool new-logo jerseys until the fall season, but for those who can't wait, it sounds like there will be team gear ready to go for the spring.
No fan too young: Saturday, Etienne Barbara and Miguel Ibarra were at Mercado Central on Lake Street, engaging in some team promotion at its most basic - shaking hands and, apparently, kissing babies. (Gotta hook these fans young.)
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