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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Minnesota United FC will likely be without its two main forward options on Saturday, a blow for a team that went scoreless in its opening match.
Pablo Campos is suspended for tomorrow's 2:30 tilt against Edmonton, the last vestige of his playoff red card last season. The big news, though, is that his strike partner Etienne Barbara was termed "unlikely" to go against the Eddies by head coach Manny Lagos, thanks to a hamstring issue.
The good news for Minnesota is that most of the rest of the squad is rounding into shape, injury-wise. Forward / wing Max Griffin, who missed the opening game with a hamstring injury of his own, is ready to go for Saturday. Lagos was intentionally vague about who he plans to replace Barbara with, but he mentioned Griffin as a possibility, leading me to believe we might see Griffin make his regular-season debut in the starting lineup, possibly in tandem with Travis Wall.
Midfielder Bryan Arguez is also a candidate to make his first regular-season debut with the team, after missing part of preseason and the first game of the regular season with a quadriceps injury.
Left back Justin Davis, who hobbled off with a high ankle sprain against San Antonio, is also set to return to the field, just two weeks after his injury. With Edmonton looking much more dangerous offensively this season than in past years, Minnesota will be happy to have its first-team back line ready to go.
A few other notes:
Tchoupe moves on
In a press release, United announced that they have released center back Ernest Tchoupe. The Cameroonian was mostly a backup last year, and struggled during the preseason this year to press his case while other players were out of the squad. Kyle Altman's return for the spring season gave Minnesota three experienced center backs, making Tchoupe somewhat expendable.
No longer on trial
The team also announced that it has signed midfielder / defender / jack of all trades Luis Heitor-Piffer, after the Brazilian impressed while on trial with the team. Heitor-Piffer was most recently seen at Des Moines's Grand View University, where he scored 22 goals and had 14 assists and was the conference player of the year in both of his two seasons. Goalkeeper Peter McKeown, a Woodbury native, will also be part of the team, though mostly in a role as a practice keeper and assistant equipment manager.
Trinidadian Sean de Silva is the only player remaining on trial, though Lagos said that one or two more players could come in next week. Striker Joseph Lapira is no longer with the team as a triallist.
Calgary gets serious
Minnesota isn't the only team that's seen front-office departures. FC Edmonton announced this week that director of soccer Joe Petrone is leaving the team to become the point man for a Calgary bid to join the NASL, much as Peter Wilt did for Indianapolis, which will join the league next year. Edmonton and Minnesota are the only two NASL teams not in the Eastern time zone, and the league is actively looking to bring in clubs from the rest of the country. Calgary, as a built-in rival for Edmonton, might be a good fit.
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