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 is currently into the first two days of their preseason training trip to England; the team arrived in the UK on Saturday, trained at Derby County yesterday, and is playing a friendly against lower-division side Matlock Town FC this afternoon. Paul Duncan, Special Sections Editor for the Star Tribune, is currently back home in England visiting family, and will be reporting on Minnesota United's preseason tour for SoccerCentric.
Duncan caught up with United team president Nick Rogers on Sunday, as the team trained at Derby.
Paul Duncan: Nick, welcome to England! How are things going?
Nick Rogers: So far so good! We got in Saturday afternoon, got settled and started training right away. We toured the facilities at St George's Park [England's national football center, where the team are staying] which are fabulous, and now we're out here at Derby County doing some training.
PD: How are you dealing with the jet lag?
NR: We had a flight at 9 p.m. on Friday which I think helped some of the guys to sleep on the plane. The travel can be tough on the athletes so we [had a training session on Saturday afternoon] just to blow the cobwebs off. It was good to get that one out of the way!
PD: Tell us how you ended up coming here in the first place.
NR: Well, last season's preseason trip was not so successful. We ended up going to Kansas City and the weather was horrible, we didn't get outside once and didn't play on grass the entire preseason. This preseason we said we were going to do something different. We ended up first going out to L.A. The Derby thing came about through relationships we have [with Derby's American and Canadian owners].
PD: Apart from the "cool" factor of coming to England, something the players have never done before, what do you think is the value of this trip to you as a team?
NR: If you want to be good at something you need to challenge yourself and expose yourself to different ideas. We play in a certain way in the United States and you come here and you get to see the game played differently. Also it's going to be beneficial to form long-term relationships with clubs in England and other places in Europe. We're always looking for the next great player and you never know where that player's going to come from. ... And it's just nice to get away from the distractions and have the guys get to know each other. Number one this is about us getting ready for the season that's about to happen and to be successful.
We want to see how things are done here. We're out of our comfort zone and it's nice to expose yourself to new ideas about things that you take for granted.
PD: You've only been in town for two days, but what kind of reception have you had?
NR: We are the first American club team to visit St George's, and that's a distinction we're proud of. Everybody at St George's has been very welcoming.
PD: Do you find yourself translating soccer to football or football to soccer?
NR: It depends on the audience you're talking to! I've noticed more and more Americans refer to themselves as "footballers". The English called it "soccer" for a long long time!
PD: The English tease the Americans about calling it "soccer" but they're the ones who started it!
NR: I've been calling it "football" all along!
United's match against Matlock Town kicks off at 2:45pm Central time today.
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