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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Goalkeeper Matt Van Oekel will make his first league start of the season tonight for Minnesota United FC, following a strong performance Tuesday night in the US Open Cup.
Van Oekel was the team's regular goalkeeper for most of 2012, but lost his starting spot this season to free-agent pickup Daryl Sattler. Tuesday, though, he made two of the team's best saves of the season against Des Moines; in the first half, he had to backpedal to tip away a long shot that was destined for the top corner, and in the second, he managed to keep out a header from point-blank range, getting down low to his right to push a shot around the post.
Tampa Bay scored three goals last week against Sattler - including one in which he tried to punch the ball out of danger but knocked it straight to Rowdies midfielder Shane Hill, who scored. Even last week, Sattler blamed himself. "At the end of the day, I'm the last man back there," he said after the game.
The injuries pile up
Every week, it seems like one or two more players end up on the injury report for United. This week, it's center back Kevin Friedland and midfielder Lucas Rodriguez who are out for Saturday, in addition to the long list of previously injured players.
Center back Connor Tobin, who has missed the last three weeks with an ankle injury, is with the team and is in a late battle to be ready for the game. If he can't go, presumably Brent Kallman - whose first professional game was last Tuesday - will start at center back alongside Cristiano Dias, as Kyle Altman remains out with a concussion.
In the midfield, Aaron Pitchkolan remains with an ankle injury. Simone Bracalello, like Tobin, is also questionable, and with Max Griffin still recovering from a hamstring injury of his own, without Rodriguez the team is a little short of wingers. Michael Reed and Bryan Arguez will likely start again in the center, but if Bracalello can't go, the team will have to mix and match out wide.
Up front, Etienne Barbara is also out. Tuesday, Pablo Campos and Geison Moura - who is on a three-week contract - combined well after Moura came on in the second half. If Moura doesn't get a place in the starting lineup, Travis Wall could be in line for another start.
Tonight's game is at 6:30 pm, Central time. You can watch at United's official site. Tampa is tied for first with 11 points; Minnesota is in fourth with eight.