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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Wednesday, Minnesota United announced a pair of players from Major League Soccer's Montreal Impact would join the team on loan for the fall season - one of whom is a local product. Midfielder Calum Mallace, originally from Scotland, moved to Minnesota as a youngster, and started for Henry Sibley HS for five years. He also played two seasons with the Woodbury Predators club team under head coach Don Gramenz, a former Minnesota Thunder player, and his brother Craig is a Thunder alumnus, as well.
The 23-year-old didn't have to wait to make his debut, after arriving in town Tuesday night - he came on as a substitute and played the final half-hour for United. Said Mallace, "I remember coming here all those years when I was younger, watching the Thunder play, and now I'm here - so that's something special."
Head coach Manny Lagos was equally excited to have Mallace in the squad. "Calum is young in his pro career, and has shown some serious promise at Montreal," he said. "I think it's exciting for us to get a player like that, who is from here [in Minnesota], on the roster."
Mallace was the 2011 Big East Midfielder of the Year at Marquette, and was drafted by Montreal in 2012. He started four times for the Impact last year, but had struggled to find minutes this year, coming on as a sub twice.
"[Montreal] said they highly respect me and see a lot of value in me as a player," said Mallace, "but with some of the experienced players we have on the team in Montreal, it's no surprise I wasn't getting many minutes, especially in the middle of the park - we have about eight midfielders, I think. It's a positive for me, because they want me to get games and come back as a better player."
Sinisa Ubiparipovic, a native of Bosnia & Herzegovina, struggled similarly for minutes in the Montreal midfield. He's made 82 MLS appearances over six years in the league, the first four with New York, the last two with Montreal. He's a University of Akron product, where he was conference MVP in 2006, when he also was named to the All-American team for the second year running.
He wasn't in attendance for Wednesday's game, but Lagos was looking forward to adding him to the team, as well. "I know him pretty well," said the coach. " I’ve always followed his career in MLS, and in our league as well. We’re excited to get somebody with his experience to add to the team and try to get better."
Both players can be recalled to Montreal by August 8, if needed, but if either is still here on that date, they're here for the duration of the fall season.
Another player to watch is defender Logan Emory, who started at center back on Wednesday night and played the full 90 minutes. Emory was released by Toronto near the end of June, after making 22 appearances for the MLS side over the past two years. He's a second-division veteran, having spent two years with the now-(mostly-)defunct Puerto Rico Islanders before catching on with Toronto.
Emory, who is still on trial and hasn't signed for United, was looking forward to trying to turn things around after his release. "It’s difficult, but I need to be playing soccer, and Minnesota’s given me the opportunity to do that," he said. "I’ve just got to get my head right and get ready for the season and help win a championship. Playing time would be nice, but winning is the most important thing."
Jamaican international winger Omar Daley was also on the field for United for the final 20 minutes of the match on Wednesday. Daley, who has played 50 times for his country, spent parts of eight seasons playing for various clubs in the English lower divisions, and played the last two years for Motherwell in the Scottish Premier League.
Other triallists in uniform on Wenesday included former West Virginia University forward Uwem Etuk, Brazilian forward Allisson Faramilio, veteran USL Pro forward Aaron King, and a young striker named Bruno Borba, who if nothing else has a great name.