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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Minnesota United continued to fill out its 2014 roster on Tuesday, as it announced that ten more players from the 2013 squad have had their options picked up for next season. The ten include goalkeeper Matt Van Oekel; defenders Justin Davis, Brian Kallman, Cristiano Dias, and Brent Kallman; midfielders Floyd Franks, Simone Bracalello, Kentaro Takada, and Michael Reed; and forward Nate Polak.
Forward Pablo Campos, center back Aaron Pitchkolan, winger Miguel Ibarra, and fullback Kevin Venegas were announced as the first pieces of next season's team at the team's mid-November press conference, so today's announcement brings the 2014 squad to 14 players.
The team also continues to work towards potential contracts for several free agents, including center back Connor Tobin, winger Omar Daley, and goalkeeper Mitch Hildebrandt.
For the second straight year, United's back line will see the most continuity of any group. Davis, Brian Kallman, Dias, Venegas, and Pitchkolan all saw significant time in the back four, and Van Oekel was the team's starting keeper for most of the year. If Tobin re-signs as well, the team's defense will be more or less intact from the end of 2013.
Up front, the team remains quite thin. Campos's return means the team has one proven scorer, but Polak played just seven minutes last year, after a blood clot in his shoulder ruined the first half of his season.
The announcements leave eight players from 2013 as free agents, most notably striker Max Griffin and winger Lucas Rodriguez. Rodriguez has been in Minnesota for four years, and in some ways was United's most consistent option on the wing in 2013, if not their most dynamic; it was a surprise to see him not on the contract list. Griffin showed a ton of promise, but could only score once in fourteen appearances; given Minnesota's lack of forwards, though, I thought he might return as well.
Also on the free-agent list is keeper Daryl Sattler, who began the season as first choice between the pipes, but spent the entire second half of the season on the disabled list with a torn labrum, and Mike Ambersley, who came to Minnesota during the summer break in the Etienne Barbara trade and played in 13 games at forward without scoring.
The final four free agents are midfielders Edi Buro, Sean de Silva, and Luis Heitor-Piffer, and striker Travis Wall.
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