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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Defender Aaron Pitchkolan and midfielder Miguel Ibarra have been named to the NASL Best XI for 2013. It's Ibarra's first honor, and Pitchkolan's second - if you count 2010, when he was named to the Best XI in the NASL-precursor USSF Division 2, while playing with the Rochester Rhinos.
Much was made of Minnesota's off-season signings last winter, but Pitchkolan undeservedly flew under the radar, as he came over from San Antonio along with Pablo Campos and Daryl Sattler. There were more than a few Scorpions fans saying that Pitchkolan was the biggest loss among the three, and so he proved. He played the first half of the season as a defensive midfielder, but moved to center back when Kyle Altman retired after the first half of the season - and it was at center back that he made the all-league team. Pitchkolan was my pick for team MVP this year, for his versatility, for his defensive prowess, and for his leadership.
For Ibarra, it's a testament to how excellent his second half of the season was that he made the Best XI despite a very disappointing first half. By the time the summer break rolled around, he was out of the United starting lineup, but he forced his way back in during his standout second half. His stoppage-time assist in San Antonio, when he won the game for United with an extraordinary effort to win the ball back and cross for Connor Tobin to score the game-winner, probably by itself got him all of the Best XI votes he needed.
The rest of the team:
GK - Joe Nasco, Atlanta
D - Martyn Lancaster, Atlanta; Albert Watson, Edmonton; Pitchkolan
M - Luke Mulholland, Tampa Bay; Richard Menjivar, Atlanta; Marcos Senna, New York; Ibarra
F - Georgi Hristov, Tampa Bay; Brian Shriver, Carolina; Hans Denissen, San Antonio
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