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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Correspondent Wes Burdine (@MnNiceFC) made it out to Minnesota United training on Wednesday, and checked in with the following report. In return, I demand that you listen to Wes and Bruce McGuire on the du Nord Futbol Show podcast, which is one of the best and deserves your ear time. Wes?
Minnesota United FC spent the day training at Parade Park in downtown Minneapolis to prepare for Saturday’s away game against the New York Cosmos. The team played an 8v8 scrimmage for a little while, in order to practice playing under pressure, then turned to a full sided practice to practice putting the opposition under pressure. It’s a safe bet that there will be pressure both ways on Saturday.
The team seems to have settled into their 4-2-3-1 formation and don’t look likely to stray. I would bet that the midfield two will be Aaron Pitchkolan pairing with either Floyd Franks or Juliano Vicentini. My full interview with head coach Manny Lagos is available on Youtube; he talks more about last week’s win over Indy 11.
New York Cosmos – struggling, but still dangerous
Looking at the table, the only pressure seems to be on the Cosmos, who apparently haven’t yet discovered that the fall season has begun. They have a paltry 8 points from 7 matches, having won just twice all fall.
However, the Cosmos have proven the bogeyman for the Loons since their reboot in fall of 2013. The two teams have met three times, each game ending in a 1-0 victory for New York.
Loons’ Head coach Manny Lagos said he was well aware of the Cosmos’ threat. After training, Lagos said, “We acknowledge that they’ve had the better of us in close games.” He added that they were looking forward to testing themselves against a team that needs results.
Parade Park serves as home base
The team practiced today at Parade Park, which - side note - is absolute torture for someone who dreams of a downtown stadium location. It was a beautiful day and the city skyline loomed above us. Just beautiful. But I digress.
The Cosmos play on turf at the James M. Shuart stadium at Hofstra University. Lagos wanted to prepare for that game with a day’s training on turf. The team will be back up at the National Sports Center in Blaine for the remainder of the week. Lagos pointed out that “you mentally have to prepare” for games on turf, and that the team will need to adjust to that surface quickly.
Juliano returns to training
Midfielder Juliano put in a full session of training Wednesday, as he recovered from the injury he sustained in the 54th minute of the 3-2 win over FC Edmonton on August 9. He trained at three-quarters speed on Tuesday, and will be available for selection on Saturday.
Rafael Burgos nears full fitness
Fans have still not seen new striker Rafael Burgos in action. Burgos signed at the end of July, on loan for Austrian side SV Ried, but has yet to see any action for the team. Burgos is still working up his fitness - but also suffered a separated shoulder in training last week, as setback as he tries to catch up to United’s mid-season fitness level.
Burgos was fully training with the team on Wednesday, despite the shoulder, and is fit enough that he’s in consideration for Saturday’s match.
The striker also has potential international duty ahead of him. El Salvador named Burgos to their preliminary 40-man roster for the Copa Centroamericana, to be played from September 3-13. The final 23-man roster will be announced September 1; if Burgos makes the team, he would then miss matches against Tampa Bay and Fort Lauderdale.
Pedro Mendes ready to go
The Loons’ newest addition, striker Pedro Mendes, was in the 18-man squad for last Saturday’s match up against Indy, his former club. He looks to be ready to play. Lagos said that Indy made it known that Pedro was available, and the coach thought the striker could continue to add depth to Minnesota’s attack. I was struck by Pedro’s imposing size during training. At an even six feet, he is not remarkably tall, but he has the sort of battering ram’s build that could be helpful if the team is chasing a game.
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