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.
Email Jon to talk about soccer.
If you haven't seen it already, check out David La Vaque's game preview story today. It's got some good quotes from Justin Davis and Aaron Pitchkolan about the next eleven days of United's season, the busiest stretch they'll have all year.
Today, Minnesota takes on Tampa Bay at the Dome. Tuesday, they'll play the Des Moines Menace in the US Open Cup, at Robbie Stadium. Saturday, they play Tampa Bay again, this time on the road. The following Tuesday, if they beat Des Moines, they travel to play Sporting Kansas City of MLS.
That's four potential games in eleven days. In past seasons, with a 28-game league season, United might have sent out a less-than-full-strength side for one or both league games, in the hopes of using the first team for the Open Cup games. But this year, with the twelve-game spring season, the team can't afford the risk of league losses.
"We’ve got the US Open Cup coming up. The Open Cup’s important, now the first season is important, where do you put your chips?" said defender / assistant coach Kevin Friedland. "I don’t think you can afford to not put them in both baskets. Last year during the Open Cup, we basically sent the second team out for two games. We got two results, we got two 0-0 away draws, which is a good result - especially given that it was essentially our second set of guys. I don’t know how we’re going to handle that coming up."
It'll be interesting to see what the team sheets look like over the next two weeks. I'd be surprised if United didn't play a full-strength side today, given that they've had a full week of practice at home - but I suspect there will be a lot of rotation for the three that follow.
United has listed three players as "questionable" on their injury report. Center back Connor Tobin is still dealing with the ankle injury that has kept him out of the past two games; Kentaro Takada, who missed last week in Fort Lauderdale, is still affected by his ankle injury, too. Max Griffin is also listed as questionable with the recurring hamstring problem that has limited him to just one game this season.
Midfielder Bryan Arguez, however, finally made his season debut in Fort Lauderdale, coming on for the second half in United's 2-1 loss to the Strikers. He looked effective, and I would not be too surprised to see him get an increasing number of minutes over the next stretch of games.
More on the Open Cup
I'm really getting into the Open Cup spirit - so much so that I penned a column for the RandBall blog about how it needs to be expanded to at least one other sport. Bruce McGuire of du Nord also put together a quick history of Minnesota's appearances in the tournament, a fascinating trip down memory lane.
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