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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With all of the new arrivals for Minnesota United FC, it's been easy to overlook central midfielder Michael Reed, who's started the first three games of the season, after spending much of his rookie season last year on the bench. As far as Reed is concerned, though, that's just fine with him.
"I try to see myself as a selfless player, where I make runs to open up opportunities for others," he said. "Obviously, you don't get the ball as much, but you create opportunities for the team. It's a key role that is not as noticeable, but it opens up a lot of things, and I think it's something that I bring to the team."
Reed, 25, had to rededicate himself to the game after offseason knee surgery, but he's back to playing, in the words of head coach Manny Lagos, "unbelievably well." The team brought in two central midfielders in the offseason, and re-signed another, and so at the beginning of the pre-season, Reed appeared to be well down the depth chart. But an excellent preseason got him noticed, and one ongoing injury opened the door, and suddenly, he's been in the starting lineup for the first three games of the year.
"We didn't give him many minutes last year, but he fought through some injuries and he fought through training hard," Lagos said. "So far this year, the opportunity has come up with injuries and things, and he's stepped in."
Reed credits a change in his offseason workout regimen for getting him ready for the season, moving to a more cardio-based regimen that included a lot of plyometric training, as well as a strength component."I'm still finding out more about my body as I get older, and I play these minutes," he said.
It also helps that the Albuquerque native has a couple of fellow players with New Mexico ties at the club. Reed played some club soccer with United center back and fellow Albuquerque native Kyle Altman in his formative years, and played with left back Justin Davis in college at the University of New Mexico. Though both helped bring him to Minnesota, according to Reed, they did it in different ways.
"Kyle didn't give me much of a choice," he said. "JD is a little more laid-back."
Much electronic ink has been spilled, including some in this space, about the formations that Minnesota is using this year, so much so that I wondered if maybe I was making too much of it. Lagos, the man in charge of the formation, says that he's just glad that people are talking about it.
"I think it's a nice evolution in this country that people are delving into more of the tactical side of the game," he said. "Once you delve into it, the reality is that there is this unique balance in soccer: It's such a simple game, yet it's so complicated. And that's the same thing with formations. I just like that people are talking about it, because the reality is that it's part of the game in terms of how you approach the game, and how you try to match up guys on the field to be the most effective, and to be effective against a team that might be playing a different formation."
So far this year, United has played with a different look, going with a 4-2-3-1 look (though Lagos calls it a 4-2-1-3). Arguments aside, that could change today, as United has both Pablo Campos and Etienne Barbara available, and could potentially start them together for the first time. David La Vaque talked to both for today's paper, if you missed it. If they both start, it might make sense for the team to revert to a more classic 4-4-2 look, or perhaps a 4-3-1-2 with Miguel Ibarra slotting in behind the two srikers.
* Center back Connor Tobin sprained his ankle badly in training, and won't be available. We're likely to see the season debut of Cristiano Dias to replace him. Worriers about the defense can take heart, knowing that Dias played together with Altman in central defense for much of last year - and that the injury happened on Monday, giving the two almost a week to work together again.
* Bryan Arguez is listed as "questionable" on the team's injury report, but the sense I got from talking to Lagos is that he's almost certain not to play - if for no other reason than he hasn't played in a match all year, and is still dealing with a quadriceps problem.
* Max Griffin is also unlikely to play. He missed out in Atlanta after a recurrence of the same hamstring problem that's plagued him all year, and looks set to miss out this week as well.
7pm vs. Carolina at the Metrodome. David La Vaque's game preview box is available here.
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