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.
Hours after the team announced the trade that sent striker Etienne Barbara to Tampa Bay in exchange for attacker Mike Ambersley, United head coach Manny Lagos was already trying to start looking forward to the fall season that begins tomorrow.
"As a club, you have to try to get better and find the right mix of players, and that’s what makes you successful," he said. "We as a club felt like making the change would help us in both the short and the long term."
It was clear that Barbara just couldn't settle in Minnesota, for whatever reason. His outspoken nature may simply have clashed with the all-for-one locker-room culture that United had forged over the past two seasons as a league-owned, us-against-the-world type of team.
Said Lagos, "We’re honest that it didn’t quite work out. Unfortunately, a better environment on both sides might be what is needed."
Ambersley, the player Minnesota received in return, is no slouch himself. The 30-year-old, who has played both up front and in the midfield, has scored 17 goals for Tampa Bay over the past two-and-a-half seasons. He battled injuries this spring, playing the equivalent of three matches' worth of minutes, but he scored two goals in that span.
"He’s just a smart forward, who makes good runs, who is clever off the ball, and has good touch and has a knack to finish," said Lagos. "We as a club think we’re doing it for the right reasons, to get better and be more competitive. Mike’s a quality player, he’s a proven forward in this league."
According to the coach, it was a trade that was two weeks in the making, and one that finally came together midweek. "It had to be a unique situation for us to move Etienne," he said. "He [Ambersley] was probably one of the few guys in the league who made sense."
The front office isstill working out the complications of getting Ambersley to Minnesota, and so he won't be available for Saturday's game against Atlanta. He'd be more likely to make the trip to Fort Lauderdale the following week - or even debut the next week, when Minnesota is at home against the Rowdies.
Sattler also down for the count
United brought in five players over the winter - two of which have now been traded, and one of which, goalkeeper Daryl Sattler, will miss the entire fall season. Sattler had surgery Thursday to repair a torn labrum in his hip, a surgery that will remove him from contention for the fall season.
The 32-year-old started the first six games of the season for United, before making way for Matt Van Oekel as the #1 keeper. Lagos wasn't able to confirm whether Sattler is under contract for next year, but the coach, wearing his GM hat for the moment, thought that the team held an option on his contract for at least next year. For the time being, Van Oekel will man the goal, with Mitch Hildebrant as the #1 backup.
The only other injury of note was center back Brent Kallman, who suffered an ankle injury in an exhibition match and appears set to miss out on Saturday with Atlanta.