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.
Email Jon to talk about soccer.
First of all, if you haven't opened your print editions of the paper - you do get the print edition, right? - you missed out on a couple of United pieces in Sports. David La Vaque wrote a long recap of the disappointments of 2013 for Minnesota, while I looked forward to 2014 and at what United needs to do in the offseason.
All four NASL games tonight are happening at the same time - 6:30pm Central time. It was a conscious choice by the schedule-makers, designed such that no team could get an advantage by playing later than another team and thus knowing what result they might need to get on the final day.
Of course, in the event, it doesn't matter at all; New York will play Atlanta in the Soccer Bowl next week, even if both teams lose 11-0 tonight. And so today has a very last-day-of-school feeling in the league; nothing anyone does really matters, and most people are just trying to enjoy it and get to the end of the day, before a long break.
United currently sits fourth in the standings, but could finish anywhere from second to seventh, depending on today's results - though they would have to win by three goals (and see Carolina lose by a couple) to climb all the way up to second.
However, if Minnesota loses, and Atlanta or Edmonton wins, then guess what - it's back to sixth place for United, which finished sixth in 2011, 2012, and in the spring of this year.
Three players will be missing from tonight's squad that United fans have grown used to seeing. Midfielder Calum Mallace was back in Montreal this week as the Impact prepared for their playoff game in Houston (which the Dynamo won 3-0). Connor Tobin, who aggravated his knee injury early in the first half last week, will also miss out on the season's final game, and Brian Kallman did not travel to Tampa, as he's in Minnesota attending to a personal matter.
The squad for tonight's game: Van Oekel, Hildebrandt; Davis, Dias, Pitchkolan, Friedland, Venegas, Brent Kallman; Bracalello, Takada, Daley, Ibarra, Rodriguez; Campos, Ambersley, Wall, Polak.
It will be interesting to see if any of the potential pieces for United's future - like Brent Kallman, or Travis Wall - make a start toinght.
Sunday, Sunday, Sunday!
Minnesota does an excellent job of video production, but it's worth remembering that not all of the NASL's teams have that same skill set. Witness the below video, produced by the Atlanta Silverbacks to promote next week's Soccer Bowl:
I have several thoughts.
It's at 6:30 tonight, and you can watch on NASL.com/live, as per usual.
A note: thanks to everyone who read the United coverage this year. It'll still keep going in the offseason, but no doubt it will slow down; thanks for reading all year.
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