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.
Email Jon to talk about soccer.
Minnesota United is going with virtually the same squad for tomorrow's trip to Ottawa, with only one change. Tyler Polak will travel for Michael Reed, with the former providing a few more options off the bench than Reed. Otherwise, the other 17 players remain the same.
It's worth noting that Miguel Ibarra came off the bench for the final half-hour in Week 1 against San Antonio. I thought Ibarra was a lock to start as a playmaker in central midfield or on the right wing, but those positions were filled by Floyd Franks and Omar Daley, respectively. It was Franks that was replaced by Ibarra, though, and in his weekly analysis of the game, head coach Manny Lagos praised Ibarra's play. The United fans who logged onto the team's subreddit also rated Franks as the worst member of the starting eleven. Perhaps Ibarra, not Franks, will get the start in Ottawa?
It's also Ottawa's first-ever home match, and a 2pm kickoff. Excitement should be high by the time the game gets underway. As always, the team's Dark Clouds fan group will be watching the game at the Nomad Pub in Minneapolis, while the team will host an official watch party at Brit's Pub.
The squad, in full: Van Oekel, Hildebrandt; Venegas, Calvano, Dias, Davis, Brian Kallman; Vicentini, Pitchkolan, Daley, Watson, Ibarra, Bracalello, Franks, Mendes, T. Polak, Jordan; Ramirez.
Scorpions defender accuses Calvano
San Antonio defender Julius James was not at all happy about his sending-off against United, and he's gone so far as to accuse Minnesota defender Tiago Calvano of intentionally kicking him in the area of his neck and head. Speaking to mysanantonio.com, James said, "Right as it happened, this is not to be dramatic, but I felt like that was a direct act on my career and my life."
James, whose red card means that he will be suspended this week, reacted wrathfully, shoving a prone Calvano to the ground. Calvano was given a yellow card for the high kick, but James was immediately sent off.
It's the second violent incident between San Antonio and Minnesota in two years. Last season, Scorpions defender Kevin Harmse was suspended for six games for a postgame outburst that involved punching United striker Pablo Campos in the crotch and clocking Minnesota athletic trainer Tom Smith in the face.
Keeping tabs on Kassey Kallman
Local product Kassey Kallman is now in the pro ranks, in the National Women's Soccer League - and she's already making a success of herself. The defender, who was picked fifth out of Florida State in the 2014 NWSL draft by Kansas City, was in the Opening Day lineup for KC, against the New Jersey-based Sky Blue FC.
Kallman played all 90 minutes, and assisted on KC's first goal of the season, late in the first half. Sky Blue equalized three minutes after halftime, and the match ended in a 1-1 draw.
Akale, Yueill start for the USA again
Minnesota natives Mukwelle Akale and Jackson Yueill both saw plenty of game action in the two friendlies that were part of the USA U-18 team's camp, earlier this month in California. The two, both midfielers, were on similar schedules, starting both of the team's friendlies and playing about an hour in each.
The USA came through in fine style against Canada, winning 2-1, but blew three separate one-goal leads, including allowing two goals in second-half stoppage time, and lost to Mexico 4-3. Neither Minnesotan recorded a point in either game.
The U-18 team now returns to their respective local clubs; their next action is at a tournament in Portugal, near the end of May.
Amos Magee appears in the East
Former Minnesota Thunder striker and coach Amos Magee has a new gig. After several seasons in Portland, coaching the Timbers reservs, Magee has moved across the country to Washington, where he is in charge of the D.C. United U-23 team. For those unaware of his place in Minnesota soccer lore, Magee - a St. Paul native - played a dozen seasons for the Thunder and holds the team record for goals with 64. After two years as coach, he left for greener pastures, and Lagos, his former Thunder teammate, took over the squad.
Dana Wessel produces the K-TWIN Morning Show on 96.3 K-TWIN Monday-Friday 5:30am-10:00am. The show is hosted by Eric Perkins and Rena Sarigianopoulos of KARE 11. He's our Premier League expert. Dana?
The title is very much undecided after last Sunday’s "title match" between Liverpool and Manchester City, and if the results of Wednesday are any indication, we won’t know who will lift the trophy, get relegated, or finish fourth until the final Sunday of the season.
Speaking of that Sunday, there are a few housekeeping items I want to get to before we preview this weekend’s crucial matches:
1. All 10 matches will be televised on the NBC family of networks on Sunday, May 11th at 9:00am. As is the custom in the Premier League, to not give away any advantage, all 10 matches kick off at the exact same time. You better get to a bar that has 10 TVs and a sick cable package, buy nine extra TVs for your living room and return them (big box retailers are so desperate for happy customers that they’d allow it. Give the dude at Best Buy 50 bucks and he’d probably let you rent them from him, just for the morning), or start exercising your flipping thumb right now.
2. Sunday, May 11th is also Mother’s Day, ya hooligans. Don’t let your excitement over the final day cause you to forget about the woman that gave you life, so that you can be excited over ultimately-trivial things like 11 dudes in matching costumes running around kicking a ball. If you and your mother don’t live near each other, don’t use soccer as an excuse not to call her. If you are planning on seeing her, don’t get caught up at the pub and be late.
That said, maaaaaybe mix in a few extra phone calls and visits between now and May 11th so your mother might maybe potentially be cool with pushing back Mother’s Day brunch until 11am when the matches are over. Frame it that you want to let her sleep in on her big day! Just a thought.
Now that I am on the short-list for the Worst Son of the Year Award, I’d just like to say mom, I love you, and I'll happily skip the Chelsea match to spend the morning with you. But wouldn’t it be nice to sleep in on your big day?!?
No. 1: Chelsea vs Sunderland at Stamford Bridge
When: Saturday at 11:30am on NBC Sports Network
Last year: Ugly game between these two last April at the Bridge. They exchanged a pair of own goals before Branislav Ivanovic (the dude on Chelsea I’d most want on my side in a bar fight) found a winner in the 55th.
Chelsea are one of two teams, along with Liverpool, that control their own destiny with four matches to go. Thanks to City coughing up two points to Sunderland, Chelsea’s opponent Saturday, the Blues can now win their final four matches and raise their third PL trophy under Jose Mourinho and fourth overall.
This is easier said than done, especially with a scheduled trip to Anfield next Sunday, but it is quite a position to be in. Speaking of Anfield, Jose will be sure the men aren’t looking forward to next Sunday while overlooking a Sunderland team playing for their Premier League lives - and playing with confidence, too. Oh, and they also can’t be looking ahead to next Tuesday, either, when they’ll be playing in the semi-finals of Champions League.
There are six, potentially seven matches left to go in this season, and a double is still on the table for the Blues. The wins haven’t been beautiful, but nobody remembers that once a trophy is lifted. Jose has them playing with confidence and his classic "us-against-the-world" mentality.
I am always confident in my favorite team, but I am also - understandably - very nervous. I carry around a brown paper bag to hyperventilate into wherever I go and I always make sure I am within 50 feet of somebody trained in CPR. Having your favorite team, regardless of the league or sport, on the brink of something huge is stressful, nerve-wracking and ratchets up the anxiety to an 11, but I wouldn’t have it any other way, regardless of how the next month plays out.
No. 2: Norwich vs Liverpool at Carrow Road
When: Saturday at 6:00am on NBC Sports Network
Last year: Norwich fans didn’t exactly frame their ticket stubs after this one last year at Carrow Road. Liverpool was up 2-0 at half, 4-0 in the 57th and ended up winning 5-2. Liverpool fans will be hoping for something similar Sunday. Chelsea, City and Norwich (and, I suppose, Liverpool-hating Manchester United fans) will not be.
Nothing like waking up at 6am on a Sunday for 1 vs 17! The Canaries' loss to Fulham has them on life support now, desperate to stay out of the drop zone. The league leaders coming to town isn’t going to do much to help that. Or maybe it is just what they need to give them a shot of confidence. Or maybe I am just a delusional Chelsea fan trying to talk myself into the notion that Norwich can somehow get a point Sunday.
In all honesty, I am fine with Liverpool winning. That showdown at Anfield would be one for the ages. I am stressed out already just typing about it. The big matches, the big moments are what make sports so special, and this would be one of the biggest matches I've seen.
Liverpool are all but guaranteed to roll here. Maybe Norwich can nick one early, and get the crowd behind them, but even that seems unlikely. Sounds like Daniel Sturridge and his 23 goals will miss the trip this weekend, and manager Brendan Rodgers was quiet about whether or not he’d be ready to face his old club a week from Sunday. It shouldn’t matter Saturday against Norwich, but it would definitely be a big blow against Chelsea.
No. 3: Everton vs Manchester United at Goodison Park
When: Sunday at 10:10am on NBC Sports Network
Last year: Everton won this fixture a year ago 1-0 when Fellaini scored in the 57th minute. If that happens this season, the other team will win. That is because Fellaini now plays for Manchester United, you see.
Ah, yes. One final opportunity to laugh at David Moyes before we forget about Manchester United until next season, since their remaining matches are about as meaningful as a generic ‘happy birthday’ Facebook post to somebody you stopped talking to years ago.
This match would have been a lot more sexy had Everton not messed the bed against Crystal Palace on Wednesday. How pesky are Palace, by the way? Without a doubt the most annoying team to play. Oh, and guess what place they are. Don’t look it up. Off the top of your head guess what place they are in. I'll wait.
11th! 11th! How did that happen? Tony Pulis absolutely deserves to be manager of the year after taking over for Ian Holloway last fall. I would have bet my Starter Jacket collection that Palace would have been dead in the water by March. Not really sure where I am going with this, but ya know, good for them.
Back to Everton and my man Timmy Howard, who had his 116th clean sheet last weekend (Wednesday would’ve been a good time for his 117th, but lets not be picky) and signed a contract extension through 2018. What a story they have been this year. Moyes bails. Takes Fellaini with him. Now the mighty Manchester United are looking up at the Toffees.
Everton still have an outside chance of finishing in the top four, but the Palace loss may very well be the bullet they put in their own foot. They need Arsenal to slip up at least once, and they still have to play a Manchester City side desperate to get back in the title race.
But no Toffee player or fan should hang their head. In a season with little to no expectations, they were one of the best storylines all season. Qualifying for the Europe League, would be a huge consolation for this side and it would be great to see them and Timmy Howard playing some European football next season.
Alright, that’ll do ‘er for this week. Enjoy the matches this weekend and remember to tip your servers at your local soccer establishment.
1. FC Dallas 2, Seattle Sounders 3
You can read what’s below or just have this kid perform it for you. God bless the internet machine.
Voice Over: Dr. David Banner: physician; scientist. Searching for a way to tap into the hidden strengths that all humans have. Then an accidental overdose of gamma radiation alters his body chemistry. And now when David Banner grows angry or outraged, a startling metamorphosis occurs. The creature is driven by rage and pursued by an investigative reporter. [Banner:] "Mr. McGee, don't make me angry. You wouldn't like me when I'm angry." The creature is wanted for a murder he didn't commit. David Banner is believed to be dead, and he must let the world think that he is dead, until he can find a way to control the raging spirit that dwells within him.
Short Version: Clint Dempsey has scored five goals in two games. Also, the Sounders won.
Highlights: Deuce’s second goal was a well-worked team goal that took apart Dallas.
2. FC Dallas 2, Seattle Sounders 3, Part Deux
The World Cup is eight weeks away. The Seattle Sounders have two defenders who could be representing the United States. One of those World Cup hopefuls is spritely young Deandre Yedlin. The other is jack-of-all-trades Brad Evans. Because I know that Jürgen Klinsmann reads this column regularly, I’m going to give him some free advice.
The Seattle Sounders are tied for the second worst goals against record with 10 goals given up in 6 games. Deandre Yedlin’s simply dumb penalty he conceded against Dallas is part of that problem. Brad Evans (who, admittedly plays a midfield role for the Sounders, rather than the fullback role for the Yanks, but don’t cloud my observations with facts) has missed the last four games for the Sounders. All but two of those goals have been scored with Evans off the pitch. Chew on that Jürgen.
3. Philadelphia Union 2, Real Salt Lake 2
I’m not sure I have written or discussed the Philadelphia Union much at all this season. Much of this comes from my own prejudice, since I didn’t think they would be any good this season. Surprisingly, though, they have put together some good performances; granted, these good performances have been mostly draws. And those draws have come against mediocre squads like Montreal, Chicago, and... Okay, let me stop myself and start over. How about this? "The Union have played some games and they haven’t been terrible."
What I should really say is that on Saturday, Philadelphia put in an impressive performance against a superior Real Salt Lake squad. They went down twice because of two poor moments of defending. However, going forward, the Union look to have some real ammunition with Andrew Wenger (recently swapped for Jack McInerny with Montreal Impact), Connor Casey, Vincent Nogueira, and stand-out Leonardo Fernandes. Wenger scored on his debut only minutes after McInerny scored on his debut for Montreal, so that worked out for everyone.
Short Version: Halfway through writing I realized that Philadelphia weren’t doing as well as I suspected they might be doing. They’re fine, but still not very good.
Highlights: MLS has been supplying late-game goals aplenty this season, and this game was no different, as Maurice Edu headed in an equalizer in the 90th minute.
4. Hello, Atlanta!
Yesterday, Major League Soccer welcomed its 22nd team into the fold, in Atlanta. The team will be owned by Home Depot co-founder and Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank. This is the fourth announcement of a team (Miami hasn’t officially been given a franchise) in the past year, which has led to many fans of existing teams pulling at their collars and grumbling about expanding too fast.
There are quite a few things we don’t know about the future Atlanta team, such as what will happen to the existing soccer team, the Atlanta Silverbacks, who play in Minnesota United FC’s league, the NASL. What do we know? They will play in the new Falcons stadium (boo!), which will have removable football lines (hooray!) and which will have a roof that lowers to make the stadium more intimate for smaller soccer audiences (hooray!, I think). The team will use Black and Red as the primary colors (boo! Why use same palette as your football team) with some gold thrown in (Hooray! Because it promises to be tacky). The team will start playing in MLS in 2017 (I have no feelings on this).
Fans from Columbus took it upon themselves to welcome Atlanta to the league with a picture of General William Tecumseh Sherman, the man who burned Atlanta to the ground towards the end of the Civil War. Well played, Columbus.
5. Real Salt Lake v. Portland Timbers. Saturday, 8:30 PM, MLS Live
Real Salt Lake are undefeated; Portland Timbers are without a win. This is Thunderdome type stuff. This is also what we would call a high-energy game, so for the drama of seeing if Portland can start to get their feet, there will also be the promise of a pretty exciting match-up.
Minnesota United opened their season on Saturday with an impressive 2-0 win at San Antonio. Christian Ramirez scored his first goal of the season in the first half, an excellent spinning effort from the penalty spot, and defender Kevin Venegas added the second from a second-half free kick.
You can watch the two goals, along with a clip of San Antonio defender Julius James getting himself sent off for shoving United's Tiago Calvano, from the team's 90-second-long highlights package:
If 90 seconds is too long for you: here's a GIF of Ramirez's goal.
The win gave United an unambiguously positive start to the season, something that's in demand in the nine-game first-half sprint in the NASL. Only New York, who destroyed Atlanta 4-0 on Sunday, had a better beginning to the year.
Fort Lauderdale beat Ottawa 2-0 as well, leaving United tied for second in the table after one week of play. In the other two games, Indy and Carolina tied 1-1 in front of more than 11,000 Indianapolis fans, and Tampa Bay was held to a 1-1 draw at home by Edmonton, the reigning champions of the 1-1 draw.
Dana Wessel produces the K-TWIN Morning Show on 96.3 K-TWIN Monday-Friday 5:30am-10:00am. The show is hosted by Eric Perkins and Rena Sarigianopoulos of KARE 11. He usually writes our guide to the weekend in English soccer on Fridays, but sometimes we forget to post it until Saturdays. Dana?
Welcome back to Nuclear Wessel, where we never riot after semi-final victories* and always save our cellys for when the trophy is secured.
*I’m such a fraud for taking a shot. I would have been leading the charge if it happened a few years ago -- and I don’t even like Gopher hockey.
Exciting times ahead this weekend. Arsenal have a chance to make a cup final. Everton have a chance to leapfrog Arsenal for fourth. Liverpool and City are basically playing for a title. And the only team from England left in the Champions League is just desperately trying to rack up points and hoping the two top dogs slip up. Enough horseplay! Let's do this thing!
No. 1: Arsenal vs Wigan Athletic at Wembley Stadium in the FA Cup semifinals
When: Saturday at 11:07AM on Fox Sports 2 (Seriously)*
Last year: I don’t know the last time these two met in the FA Cup and that seems like something that would be more trouble than it’s worth to look up. I'll just take an educated guess: 1873 and Arsenal lost 9-0.
What a weird, weird weekend for Arsenal. They have the opportunity to make an FA Cup Final and come one step closer to ending their 8 year, 10 month and 20 day trophy drought (state courtesy of http://www.sincearsenallastwonatrophy.co.uk/ bookmark it).
*How Arsenal is it that their big match at Wembley is only on Fox Sports 2? A channel very few people get and even fewer get it in HD.
But, no good thing can happen to Arsenal lately without the other shoe ready to drop. Everton can leapfrog them for the fourth and final Champions League spot by beating soon-to-be-relegated Sunderland.
It is almost inevitable, isn’t it? Arsenal will finally put some silverware in the new Emirates trophy cabinet but will end up in Europa next year. And then what does this all mean for Arsene Wenger? Is he out if he delivers a trophy but not Champions League? Is he out if they qualify for Champions League but fail to win the softest last four in the FA Cup in years? These are strange times in North London. Leading the league and winning their Champions League group seem like accomplishments from so, so long ago.
Of course, they could win Saturday, Everton could dump points, and the Gunners could run the table in a very soft final five matches and finally grab some glory. But have they done anything the last month (or the last few years, for that matter) that make you think that is at all realistic?
But honestly, I hope it all works out*. I am actually starting to feel bad for Arsenal fans**. It would be good to finally see them win a trophy***.
* I don’t.
** I’m not.
*** It wouldn’t.
No. 2: Liverpool vs Manchester City at Anfield
When: Sunday at 7:37AM on NBC Sports Network
Last year: A fun 2-2 draw the last time out at Anfield between these two. Liverpool took the lead twice and City found two equalizers. Hopefully there will be more fireworks this time out.
Well, lookee what we got here! About as close as you can get to a title match in the Premier League as you can get. Either team can control their own destiny, with four matches to go for Liverpool, and six to go for Manchester City. It’s that simple. Win on Sunday and take care of business the rest of the way and you’ll be lifting a trophy and having a parade on double-decker buses.
A draw means this crazy season will likely continue all the way up until the final day. And Chelsea will be given new life (assuming they win against Swansea). City got a big boost with the news Sergio Aguero will make his return at Anfield after being out a month with a hamstring injury. That is massive news not only for Sunday but for City’s run-up the rest of the way.
Although Anfield has been a fortress for Liverpool this season, that hasn’t been the case against City in their last five visits. The big club from Manchester (Ha! See what I did there?) has only lost one of their last five at Liverpool. Everyone is expecting this one to be an absolute goal-fest, and I hope they’re right. This one has potential to be an absolute classic. Matches of this magnitude this late in the season don’t come around very often. Set the alarm and get to the pub.
No. 3: Swansea at vs Chelsea at Liberty Stadium
When: Sunday at 10:07 on NBC Sports Network
Last year: Chelsea let all three points slip away last season at Swansea by allowing an 88th minute equalizer to end the match 1-1. Victor Moses got the goal for the Blues.
Too bad they can’t flip these Sunday matches around and have Chelsea/Swansea go first before the big showdown at Anfield. Such is life.
Chelsea are obviously feeling pretty good about themselves after the comeback against Paris-St. Germain midweek. I won’t gush too much about it, I promise, but it was one of those moments where you realize why you love sports so much in the first place.
But as great as that day was, Chelsea only have themselves to blame for their current league predicament. Three of their last five matches, they beat Spurs, Arsenal and Stoke by a combined 13-0. The other two matches in that stretch they lost to Crystal Palace and Aston Villa by a combined score of 2-0. If Chelsea get even three points from that stretch and they are still in the conversation.
But coulda-woulda-shoulda aside, Chelsea are on the outside looking in of the title picture. They will need help to get back in the mix. Also, I don’t think anybody would blame them if they had their sights set squarely on their Champions League semi-final clash with Atletico Madrid and the Trophy With Big Ears. Regardless of what happens, this season has to be considered a success for Chelsea and Jose Mourinho. Top four with a shot at the title and last four in Champions League with a puncher’s chance of winning the big one. Remember, Jose has done this much without a proper striker. Imagine what happens if he gets one over the summer?
Alright, that’ll do it for this week. I hope you all are as excited as I am for this weekend’s slate. Just a few weeks left before we say goodbye to the Premier League and turn our attention to a little event called the World Cup. Great time to love the beautiful game. Enjoy it.
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