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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For fans, trades are simple - a player comes in, a player goes out, and things move on. So when Minnesota United made two trades over the summer break, dealing Bryan Arguez to Carolina for Floyd Franks, and trading Etienne Barbara to Tampa Bay for Mike Ambersley, everything seemed fairly neat: one central midfielder and one supporting forward out, one of each coming back. Cut and dried.
For the players, though, there's more to it - especially for guys like Franks and Ambersley, who had been with their clubs long enough to become established players. Franks had spent most of the past three and a half years in Carolina, this spring as the team captain, while Ambersley had been in Tampa Bay since the beginning of 2011. Both assumed they'd be part of future plans - right up until they got some shocking news from the manager.
"It was a big surprise, actually," said Ambersley, who was told of the trade just two days before the opening of the fall season. "They never mentioned a word about to me during the whole summer break, which I would have appreciated, but that’s just not how it went. I was totally caught off guard."
Franks echoed his new teammate's bewilderment. "I definitely didn’t see that coming," he said. "I’ve been in Carolina for four years on and off, and so it kind of felt like it was a bit of a home, so that was disappointing to feel maybe like they - it’s just disappointing when you’ve been in a place for so long and you know all the people and things like that, and then they move you on.
"It’s a small league, but I guess it’s changing. It’s part of the business, that’s what everybody kept telling me. I don’t work that way, but I guess that’s all right, that’s the way things are, so I’ve got to live with that. I enjoy working with the people I have a relationship with and have formed some loyalty and trust with. In business, and I guess that’s the way the league’s going, it’s not so much like that any more."
After the initial shock wears off, it's time for the scramble to the new place. It took Ambersley almost a week to get to Minnesota, just from having to get his family from Tampa to Minneapolis - a move that the St. Louis native says he's enjoying. "I’m a Midwest boy, so I love the weather here, I love the atmosphere, my wife loves it here," he said.
There's also the challenge of fitting into a new locker room, something that both guys say was easy, despite having to do it at midseason. According to both, being a veteran helps. " I’ve known a lot of guys from around the league," said Ambersley. "I’ve been in the league for eight years now so I know most of the players, so the transition was easy, and I’m having a blast right now."
United was hit with rumors of locker-room dissent in the spring, something the trades were designed to combat, in part. Franks says that he's yet to see any evidence of that schism. "I honestly haven’t seen anything like that," he said. "It’s a healthy locker room. It’s got to start there, and then that translates out onto the field."
Both are settled in now in Minnesota; both have played in their first games in a United shirt. For Ambersley, now comes the part he's most used to: re-proving himself. "I always feel like I have something to prove," he said. "I always play with a little bit of a chip on my shoulder, and now I might have two chips.
"It comes down to a team wanted me, and from what they tell me, that’s why I got traded, because Minnesota wanted me here. That’s a good thing, a good feeling for me here, because you always want to be somewhere where you’re wanted."
Minnesota United made their first trade of the summer break on Thursday, sending midfielder Bryan Arguez to the Carolina Railhawks in exchange for midfielder Floyd Franks.
Arguez, 24, signed with Minnesota in the offseason to try to get his career on track, but injuries - especially a hamstring that kept him out of most of the preseason and the beginning of the regular season - prevented him from ever really settling in with United. In the end, he played the equivalent of four and a half matches for Minnesota, without scoring a goal or racking up an assist.
Franks, meanwhile, started ten games for Carolina in the spring season, scoring three goals along the way. Like Arguez, he's a veteran of second-division soccer in America; the 29-year-old has played most of the past four seasons for Carolina, and also spent time with the now-defunct Cleveland City Stars, prior to being with the RailHawks.
Franks was the team captain for Carolina this spring, and has played mostly as a holding midfielder, according to Neil Morris, who covers the Railhawks for Indy Week. Franks can also fill in at right back if needed; from Minnesota's point of view, he might be just the player they're looking for to fill some of the defensive gaps that plagued their midfield in the spring season.
According to Morris, Carolina head coach Colin Clarke was strongly interested in signing Arguez in the offseason, but coudn't match the financial terms that Minnesota was offering. For most of the spring season, the RailHawks played two holding midfielders, in Franks and Nick Millington; Arguez may play more of an offensive role for the team.
Said United head coach Manny Lagos, via press release, "[Franks] is a tough nose two-way midfielder and he’s going to provide a lot of the leadership that we want in the middle of the field."
Of Arguez, Lagos said, "It never really got off the way he wanted to. The environment was kind of a cool spring and he’s a southern guy. We didn’t quite get him going the way we wanted to. You always want things to work out but sometimes they don’t."
In Franks, United has their third new midfielder of the summer break, after signing Calum Mallace and Sinisa Ubiparipovic on loan from Montreal. They'll have just a few weeks to integrate all three into the setup, before the fall season begins August 3.
During the spring season, Minnesota players and coaches spoke of the need for the team, with so many new players, needing to get to know each other before they could be successful. In some ways, the summer break - and at least three new players - means that this process will have to begin all over again.
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