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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Minnesota United has had a couple of heartbreakers this year - Carolina at home, Tampa Bay at home, and especially Carolina away, when United threw away a 2-1 lead in the span of three minutes and lost 3-2.
This one, though. Tampa Bay stole a point with literally the last kick of the match, which you have to admit, isn't something you see every day.
Manny Lagos was not, in any way, happy with the referee; he had some rather testy quotes about how the game ended in the game story. It looked to be a pretty heartbroken group on the field postgame.
On the other hand, Andres Arango, who got the equalizer for Tampa Bay, couldn't have been more thrilled. His wife's family is all from Minnesota - he played here from 2008-2010 - so he had a bunch of family and friends at the game. During the first half he took an inadvertent elbow to the face, which drew blood and left him with an angry welt under his eye, but he was all smiles after rescuing a draw. "We were battling, battling, we had a couple of chances, we weren’t really getting obvious chances but we were pushing forward," he said. "To go home with a point, we’re still undefeated this season. It’s huge."
A new defensive partnership
One of the positives United can take from the game, and really the last two games, has been the play of Connor Tobin and Aaron Pitchkolan in the center of defense. Pitchkolan played mostly in midfield in the spring season, but he and Tobin looked very strong - especially against massive Tampa Bay striker Carl Cort, who looks like he always should have villagers with torches chasing him.
"I thought they had a great game," said Lagos. "They worked hard and limited Tampa’s chances, and dealt with some really big boys who threw a lot of balls into the box, and I thought they did a great job of navigating those."
United's now allowed a goal in all three games in the fall season, but not one has come from open play; all three were from set pieces. Obviously, that's been the team's Achilles heel all season on defense, but they can take some consolation that they've mostly shut down three teams in a row - especially Tampa, which just two weeks ago put seven past San Antonio.
Not much heat in Barbara's return
I wondered if Etienne Barbara would get a frosty reception from the fans of his former team, after he ripped the club on the way out. The boo-birds mostly stayed away, though, and he played the final 30 minutes of the match without making much of a dent.
The player he was traded for, Mike Ambersley, probably had more of an impact in a third of the time on the field. Ambersley had one scoring chance, which ended up going straight at Rowdies keeper Diego Restrepo, but he looked like a possible force. It'd be interesting to see what he and Pablo Campos could do with some extended time together; Ambersley seems like a natural complement to Campos, who is much more of a target forward.