United defender/assistant coach Kevin Friedland is always a good quote, but after Saturday's 3-1 win over Fort Lauderdale, he couldn't think of much to say.
I asked him what his emotions were, following his final game in front of the Minnesota crowd. "I'm speechless," he said.
Friedland was all but certain to play on Saturday, but Connor Tobin limped off with an injury after just 22 minutes - leaving Friedland to come off the bench and finish the game. As I wrote in my game story, it was fitting that the 31-year-old, who has done it all for Minnesota, would have one last chance to fill in wherever he was needed.
The Dark Clouds serenaded Friedland all night, alternating between "Kevin Friedland is a Blue" (to the tune of "London Bridge", a callback to his Thunder days) and "Please don't take our Friedland away" (to the tune of "You Are My Sunshine.") They also brought a large banner that read "And God said: LET THERE BE FRIEDLAND," a reference to just how long he'd been with the team.
It was also a chance for Friedland to play in front of his family. According to him, it was the first time he'd had his family in town for a game since 2010, and for this one he had everyone together - his dad Les, his brother Jake, and his stepmom Deb were all out from New Jersey, and his mom Shellee, his sister Allison, and his niece Madison were here from California. Put them together with his girlfriend Katie, who is from Minnesota, and it clearly meant a lot to him to play in front of the whole group - you could hear a catch in his voice when he talked about them.
"I think last night and this morning was like, I’ll see, if I get in, I get in," he said. "Obviously I didn’t care either way, but it’s a good way to go out. I had no idea, no expectations if I was going to play tonight. I was hoping, starting on the bench, for maybe twenty minutes or something - maybe get out wide or in front of the goal or something like that. They needed me to play center back, and that’s what I did, and we got the result. Most important."
Again, as I wrote in the game story, if it hadn't been for Friedland's tireless efforts, I'm not sure there would be a pro soccer team in Minnesota this year. He did everything for this team that he was ever asked, and it was nice that the team got a win for him in his last home game as a player.
Hildebrandt good in goal, Campos good in front of it
The story of the night was Friedland, which unfortunately overshadowed two more goals from Pablo Campos and an excellent performance in goal from Mitch Hildebrandt.
Campos had a classic game for him, scoring twice and setting up another one, all by being physical and never quitting on an offensive chance. His first chance was created by an excellent cross-field ball from Omar Daley, who got his first start of the fall; it was a fifty-yard pass right to the feet of Lucas Rodriguez, who took his first-time chance to roll the ball in front of goal, where Campos bulled his way in to score.
His second goal was almost similar - the ball fell between three Strikers defenders, none could clear, and Campos threw himself into the middle of all three to poke the ball past keeper Richard Sanchez. It's no wonder Sanchez was caught completely flat-footed - nobody should have been able to get a shot off from there.
Campos also created the second United goal, boxing out two defenders to head a corner down for Aaron Pitchkolan to prod home. That's eleven goals from Campos this year, and five assists - invaluable for a team that's struggled to score.
The two goals pull Campos within one of the league lead for 2013; it's not inconceivable he could end up winning the league's Golden Boot this year.
Hildebrandt, meanwhile, made at least three key saves to keep the Strikers to just one goal. He had at least a couple of them in the second half, when United only led 2-1; he was in the discussion for Man of the Match with Campos (but, let's be honest, the award was always going to Friedland on this night).
The New York Cosmos clinched their place in the Soccer Bowl with a 2-1 win in San Antonio, so even though there's a week to play in the season, the Soccer Bowl - New York at Atlanta - is set.
United, for their part, is up to fourth place. They'd like to stay there, if for no other reason than to end their streak of sixth-place finishes that dates back to 2011.