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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It's fair to say that virtually everyone associated with Minnesota United wanted to make today's trip to New York, which offers both the city and a game against the Cosmos, one of the big names in soccer history. But two players recently in the starting lineup, Justin Davis and Sinisa Ubiparipovic, have missed out.
Ubiparipovic's omission might make some sense; he was sent off for kicking an opponent after just one minute on the pitch as a substitute, last week, so he may well be in the doghouse. EDIT: of course, Ubiparipovic is suspended due to his red card last week. Davis's, though, is somewhat curious.
Davis started every game at left back in the spring season, as well as the first four of the fall. He made the trip to San Antonio the following week, but didn't play, due to what I was told was a knee issue. Since then, though, he's apparently had two full weeks of normal practice, yet he didn't even dress for last week's game against Edmonton, and now he's not on this trip, either.
Judging by what I saw at training on Thursday (and you can take that with as many grains of salt as you want), United will again start with Aaron Pitchkolan and Connor Tobin at center back this week, Kevin Venegas at right back, and Cristiano Dias at left back. Brian Kallman is in the squad, but appears set to start on the bench yet again this week.
Head coach Manny Lagos described himself as "happy" with the team's back four. "I can’t say as a group we’ve been ecstatic, because we haven’t had a shutout," he said. "I think we’re still trying to solve problems on the field the right way."
Obviously, Lagos has seen something he likes from Dias and Venegas. That's the only explanation for why Davis and Kallman, who were mainstays at fullback for years, suddenly aren't on the field.
United's squad for the game tonight: Campos, Ambersley, Griffin; Rodriguez, Ibarra, Mallace, Franks, Takada, Bracalello, Daley, de Silva; Pitchkolan, Venegas, Tobin, Dias, Brian Kallman; Van Oekel, Hildebrant.
Bright lights, big city
As I mentioned, it's United's first trip to New York - and Pitchkolan is ready for what he said is going to be a "fun weekend."
"The Cosmos have a lot of brand power," he said. "I think when they announced they were coming into the league last year, there was a lot of buzz about it. Obviously it’s going to be great to play there. I know they’ve been getting good crowds. The Cosmos name is a name that, people who follow soccer, know the Cosmos. "
However, Lagos - true to coaching form - downplayed anything but a chance to get three points. "I look at the game more just in terms of an opponent, a very good opponent that’s going to give us a lot of challenges," he said. "I really don’t try to look at anything past that for the most part."
Emory re-appears, in Texas
Released Toronto defender Logan Emory spent the summer on trial with Minnesota, but couldn't come to terms on a contract for the fall. Fans that vaguely wondered what had become of him can wonder no longer - he signed this week with San Antonio, and will be available for the Scorpions' game in Atlanta.
It wouldn't necessarily be a surprise to see him in the starting eleven; he's vastly experienced, and San Antonio needs a replacement for the suspended Kevin Harmse. There are a few rumors floating around that Harmse, so recently the team captain, has quietly been released; he still appears on the Scorpions team roster, though, so it's possible those rumors are premature.
It's a 6pm start tonight, and for the first time this season, the game will NOT be available to watch on the league and team websites. The Cosmos have a TV contract with One World Sports (whatever that is), so you'll have to head to http://www.oneworldsports.com/watch in advance to register; once you register, you should be able to watch the game at the same link.
As usual, the team will host an official watch party at Brit's Pub in downtown Minneapolis, while the Dark Clouds supporters group will gather at the Nomad World Pub, just off the U of M's West Bank.
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