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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If there is a god of sportswriting, here' s how United's game tonight with Fort Lauderdale will go: defender Kevin Friedland, playing his last home game in Minnesota after a ten-year career, will come on as a substitute at the end of the game and score the winning goal, following which he will be carried off the field just like Sean Astin in the movie "Rudy."
Maybe that's not exactly how it will go down, but Friedland will be in the eighteen-man squad for the game this evening. It would be pretty shocking if he didn't play at least a few minutes - perhaps enough to get the ovation he deserves.
In other lineup news, goalkeeper Mitch Hildebrandt will start in goal for United, his first start of the season. Hildebrandt endured an early-season ankle injury, and fell to third on the keeper depth chart behind Daryl Sattler and Matt Van Oekel - but after serving as a "valiant backup" all year, as head coach Manny Lagos said, he'll get a few minutes in front of the home fans.
Lagos listed defender Connor Tobin as probable on his weekly injury report, but noted that he was likely to start. Midfielder Michael Reed, however, is done for the year; he had surgery Friday to repair a torn labrum in his shoulder.
It's an honor just to be nominated
Defender Aaron Pitchkolan and winger Miguel Ibarra made the league's shortlist for its "Golden Ball" (read: MVP) award, along with 14 other players. The winner will be announced in the leadup to the Soccer Bowl.
The nominees came from the league's head coaches. The rest of the group:
Atlanta - Joe Nasco (GK), Martyn Lancaster (D), Richie Menjivar (MF), Danny Barrera (MF)
Carolina - Brian Shriver (F)
Edmonton - Albert Watson (D), Chris Nurse (MF)
Fort Lauderdale - Ivan Guerrero (D)
New York - Marcos Senna (MF)
San Antonio - Hans Denissen (F), Tomasz Zahorski (F)
Tampa Bay - Diego Restrepo (GK), Georgi Hristov (F), Luke Mulholland (MF)
On the air
Tonight's game is live on TV on KSTC, better known as Channel 45 in the Twin Cities. This does, however, mean that the game won't be available via live streaming to anyone in Minnesota, so if you don't have cable, you'll have to dig the bunny ears out of the back of your closet.
The league also announced that November 9's Soccer Bowl would be broadcast on ESPN Deportes (in Español, of course), and on ESPN3 in English.
Out in the cold
Game-time temperatures figure to be in the upper 30s, the first particularly chilly game of the season for Minnesota. Despite that, Lagos says that his team won't play any differently. "We try to play the same way," he said. "I don’t want to overthink what the weather’s going to be. We’ve kind of set up training outside this week in the cold so I think we’re used to it; unless things change with the weather the game plan for tomorrow is going to be the same."
More troubling is the team's lack of psychological edge at home, cold or no. Said Lagos, "We haven’t quite had that this year, as we have in years past. We certainly had a lot of special plays and good moments this year, but it wasn’t consistent across the board. Typically at home if you’re playing well and consistent, you tend to win."
It's a 6pm start in Blaine tonight. As mentioned, you can see the game on Channel 45, or head up to Blaine for the team's final home game of 2013.