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) is making it a regular practice to get out to Minnesota United training, and he's been nice enough to file reports from what he's seen. When he's not keeping us all informed, he's participating in Minnesota's best soccer podcast by far. Wes?
Minnesota United FC trained up at the National Sports Center in Blaine on Wednesday, preparing for their weekend trip to Edmonton. Wednesdays are usually the hardest day of training, and head coach Manny Lagos had the team working at a high pace all morning.
The players worked through quick passing drills, with groups of around 8 players passing figure eights around dummies (the plastic outlines of a person that stick in the ground). Then the team played 7v7 on a condensed field, to work on creating space where there is none. Training on the pitch ended with a full sided-scrimmage that emphasized getting the full backs in on the attack.
Looking Back on the Cosmos
Many fans were greatly frustrated with Saturday’s draw at the New York Cosmos. Lagos, however, was more circumspect. While he expressed disappointment at not being able to capitalize on playing against 10 men for over 80 minutes, Lagos described the Cosmos as a wounded animal with nothing to lose, but that the disappointing draw was a learning opportunity for Lagos and the team who will take this lesson and say that they need to get better.
There is a good chance that the Loons will meet the Cosmos in the post-season; Minnesota have already sewn up a play-off spot, and the Cosmos will likely qualify as well. With Minnesota still winless against the Cosmos in their four clashes, Lagos says he isn’t thinking about the New Yorkers. “I don’t look at the past, I look at the future,” he said – and he emphasized that, for him, the future is Sunday’s match up against FC Edmonton.
The Montons on a Hot Streak
This weekend, the Loons travel to Edmonton for a Sunday match up with the NASL’s other hot team of the moment, the Montons. (Editor’s note: We have long agreed that it is silly for Edmonton to be called the “Eddies.” We fully support Wes’s effort to re-nickname the team.) Since Minnesota beat Edmonton 3-2 on August 9th in Blaine, the Montons have two wins under their belt, beating the Carolina Railhawks away and the Fort Lauderdale Strikers at home. Lagos called Edmonton “one of the tougher teams right now in the league to play against,” describing them as “organized and physical.”
Wednesday’s practice, though, seemed more geared toward preparing the team to play the way Lagos wants them to see in every game, not just against the Montons. He wants to see more players on the attack and possessing the ball, with more opportunities for forward passes. After the Cosmos match, Lagos said he wanted to focus on “breaking out of the midfield and how we break lines and create space in terms of running forward and getting numbers forward” to create more chances and possess the ball. The full-sided scrimmage emphasized bringing fullbacks Justin Davis and Kevin Venegas into the attack by having Daniel Mendes and Jamie Watson tuck in, creating more space on the wings.
Burgos on the Pitch
Salvadoran striker Rafael Burgos saw his first minutes on the pitch when he came on in the 78th minute against the Cosmos. Lagos was very pleased with what he saw from the new signing, saying, “I thought he showed some nice composure and kept the ball really well.” He noted that Burgos is still getting to full match fitness. The Loons are still unsure of whether Burgos will be called into the final 23-man roster for El Salvador’s upcoming Copa Centroamericana, which will take place from September 3rd through the 13th.
Aside from long-term injury Pablo Campos, the team reported Kentaro Takada as the only player who was not fully training. Takada suffered a mild MCL strain last week. Lagos said other players are carrying a few knocks, but expects the rest of the team to be available for Sunday’s selection.
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