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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For fans, trades are simple - a player comes in, a player goes out, and things move on. So when Minnesota United made two trades over the summer break, dealing Bryan Arguez to Carolina for Floyd Franks, and trading Etienne Barbara to Tampa Bay for Mike Ambersley, everything seemed fairly neat: one central midfielder and one supporting forward out, one of each coming back. Cut and dried.
For the players, though, there's more to it - especially for guys like Franks and Ambersley, who had been with their clubs long enough to become established players. Franks had spent most of the past three and a half years in Carolina, this spring as the team captain, while Ambersley had been in Tampa Bay since the beginning of 2011. Both assumed they'd be part of future plans - right up until they got some shocking news from the manager.
"It was a big surprise, actually," said Ambersley, who was told of the trade just two days before the opening of the fall season. "They never mentioned a word about to me during the whole summer break, which I would have appreciated, but that’s just not how it went. I was totally caught off guard."
Franks echoed his new teammate's bewilderment. "I definitely didn’t see that coming," he said. "I’ve been in Carolina for four years on and off, and so it kind of felt like it was a bit of a home, so that was disappointing to feel maybe like they - it’s just disappointing when you’ve been in a place for so long and you know all the people and things like that, and then they move you on.
"It’s a small league, but I guess it’s changing. It’s part of the business, that’s what everybody kept telling me. I don’t work that way, but I guess that’s all right, that’s the way things are, so I’ve got to live with that. I enjoy working with the people I have a relationship with and have formed some loyalty and trust with. In business, and I guess that’s the way the league’s going, it’s not so much like that any more."
After the initial shock wears off, it's time for the scramble to the new place. It took Ambersley almost a week to get to Minnesota, just from having to get his family from Tampa to Minneapolis - a move that the St. Louis native says he's enjoying. "I’m a Midwest boy, so I love the weather here, I love the atmosphere, my wife loves it here," he said.
There's also the challenge of fitting into a new locker room, something that both guys say was easy, despite having to do it at midseason. According to both, being a veteran helps. " I’ve known a lot of guys from around the league," said Ambersley. "I’ve been in the league for eight years now so I know most of the players, so the transition was easy, and I’m having a blast right now."
United was hit with rumors of locker-room dissent in the spring, something the trades were designed to combat, in part. Franks says that he's yet to see any evidence of that schism. "I honestly haven’t seen anything like that," he said. "It’s a healthy locker room. It’s got to start there, and then that translates out onto the field."
Both are settled in now in Minnesota; both have played in their first games in a United shirt. For Ambersley, now comes the part he's most used to: re-proving himself. "I always feel like I have something to prove," he said. "I always play with a little bit of a chip on my shoulder, and now I might have two chips.
"It comes down to a team wanted me, and from what they tell me, that’s why I got traded, because Minnesota wanted me here. That’s a good thing, a good feeling for me here, because you always want to be somewhere where you’re wanted."