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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David La Vaque's preview box from today's paper is here.
Injury update and squad for tonight's game
United midfielder Floyd Franks, who is carrying a bit of a hamstring injury from last week, has been ruled out of tonight's game against the Cosmos. He had started the past five games for United, a streak that will come to an end tonight.
Perhaps the other surprise in the team for tonight's game is the omission of Kevin Venegas from the bench. Venegas, a starter at right-back for five games in the fall, has started on the bench in the past three matches, but will be unavailable for this game.
Here's the 18-man squad for tonight's game:
G: Matt Van Oekel, Mitch Hildebrant
D: Justin Davis, Cristiano Dias, Aaron Pitchkolan, Brian Kallman, Connor Tobin
M: Simone Bracalello, Michael Reed, Kentaro Takada, Calum Mallace, Omar Daley, Miguel Ibarra, Sinisa Ubiparipovic
F: Pablo Campos, Mike Ambersley, Max Griffin, Travis Wall
Soccer is played for those who show up
Not only are the famous New York Cosmos in town, and not only does United want to pack the stadium for a home-field advantage, but they want to reverse a troubling September trend. The team drew its two smallest crowds of the year in September, and last Saturday's attendance of 2,028 against San Antonio was less than half the team's average attendance for the year.
Team president Nick Rogers suggested that a combination of dire weather forecasts and opposing Gopher football and Twins games was what held down last week's attendance, but ultimately spoke of this year being a transitional year for the team, in terms of marketing and promotions. "We said from the beginning that we were going to experiment a lot this year, and find out what works and what doesn't," he said.
United defender / assistant coach Kevin Friedland reminded me that the team has usually drawn better late in the year, but so far that hasn't been the case this season. The team averaged more than 6,000 fans per game for their three July/August home games at the NSC, but fewer than 3,000 for the two September home dates.
Given the weather, and the trends of fans in the stands, Rogers isn't expecting to see a huge spike in attendance for the Cosmos's visit tonight. "I wouldn't bet on that, to be honest," he said.
If you want to watch the game from home, you can do so at mnunitedfc.com.