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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Saturday's game at TCF Bank Stadium between Manchester City and Olympiacos is fast approaching, but the friendly competition that the game is a part of - the International Champions Cup - is already underway. Olympiacos has a win and a loss in Group B, after beating Milan 3-0 in Toronto before losing to Liverpool 1-0 in Chicago, while Manchester City currently tops Group B after destroying Milan 5-1 in Pittsburgh. (I don't know that there's much good to say about Milan so far.)
City plays again on Wednesday in Group B's marquee matchup, vs Liverpool at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx. It'll be a good test run for soccer at Yankee Stadium, given that New York City FC starts play there next season as they continue to search for a permanent MLS home in the city.
Nine World Cup players highlight the two teams' rosters - three from the Greek champions (all from Greece) and six from the English champions. Greece is led by midfielder Andreas Samaris, fresh off his first World Cup goal in Greece's 1-0 group-stage win over the Ivory Coast. Man City, meanwhile, has a wealth of talent throughout the roster; its six internationals are goalkeeper Joe Hart, defender Bacary Sanga, midfielders David Silva, Yaya Toure and James Milner, and striker Edin Dzeko. Throw in players like Stevan Jovetic (whose Montenegrin side didn't make the World Cup) and Samir Nasri (who just missed out on making the French squad), and it's a safe bet that Man City will have plenty of star power on Saturday.
The full rosters, as sent to me (though, as befitting a friendly, always subject to change):
Goalkeepers: Roberto, Megyeri, Choutesiotis,
Defenders: Maniatis, Elabdellaoui, Holebas (Greece), Papadopoulos, Abidal, Siovas, Manolas (Greece), Masuaku, Salino, Bong, Avlonitis.
Midfielders: N'Dinga, Dominguez, Kasami, Kolovos, Samaris (Greece), Bouchalakis, Fuster, Ghazaryan, Yatabaré, Dossevi.
Forwards: Saviola, Diamantakos, Papazoglou.
Goalkeepers: Hart (England), Caballero, Wright, Lawlor.
Defenders: Richards, Sanga (France), Bossaerts, Denayer, Rekik, Nastasic, Boyata, Clichy, Kolarov.
Midfielders: Fernando, Nasri, Sinclair, Garcia, Huws, Rodwell, Zuculini, Milner (England), Silva (Spain), Navas, Toure (Ivory Coast).
Forwards: Negredo, Guidetti, Ihenacho, Jovetic, Dzeko (Bosnia and Herzegovina).
United, Ottawa set for second half of doubleheader
I would also be remiss if I didn't mention the second half of Saturday's doubleheader, as Minnesota United takes on the Ottawa Fury in a regular-season NASL game. The friendly game will be fun, but if it's true meaningful soccer you're after, perhaps you'll want to stick around. United and Ottawa begin at 4:30, following the Man City-Olympiacos game at 2pm.
United is flying high, having defeated Swansea City 2-0 and the Mexican under-21 team on penalty kicks, plus beginning their fall NASL slate undefeated through three games. The Loons have allowed just one goal in the three games, and that controversially, with the referee awarding Atlanta a questionable penalty kick late in the teams' 1-1 draw last Saturday. Nevertheless, United are one of just two NASL teams without a loss through three fall-season games - though the other, San Antonio, has already posted four wins out of four and is laying early claim to controlling the fall season.
Ottawa, meanwhile, has yet to score a goal in the fall season, and has just one point; probably their only success was in the stands, where they drew nearly 15,000 fans for their first game in the new TD Place in Ottawa.
In other words, Minnesota needs to win on Saturday - and they're hoping to do so in front of a large crowd.
(FINAL EDITOR'S NOTE: Sorry for the lack of posts lately. My wedding, two Saturdays ago, put a real damper on my ability to pay attention to soccer. Semi-normal service should resume soon.)
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