Hello Wilderness! As some of you may be, and many are not yet aware, Minnesota has a professional soccer team!
Their name is Minnesota United Football Club, and their website can be found HERE.
Soccer... Really dude?
Why should you care? Glad you asked. Hockey is, essentially, the same sport as soccer. The differences are only skin deep. The strategies are the same, the niche-ness of the sport is the same... the offsides rule is the same (mostly). Plus, MNU has the greatest mascot of all time: The Loon... I mean, how much more Minnesota does it GET? The only thing that might be more is the Lakers, and that's already taken by LA (yes that was a joke)
Minnesota United is a part of the North American Soccer League, or NASL. There are 13 teams in the NASL (there were 12 last year, and Indiana added one this year). It is the 2nd-tier league below Major League Soccer, or MLS.
Unlike the single, long season of MLS, however, the NASL season is as follows: there is a short spring season, from April-June, and a fall season, from August to November. That break in the middle allows teams to work on their play, figure some things out, etc. It makes for interesting play, as teams that are terrible in the spring can be great in the fall, and vice versa.
Also, MN United has a YouTube channel, on which they post highlight videos as well as behind-the-scenes footage (along the lines of "Becoming Wild," but shorter and better).
Exciting Developments in NASL
There have been a few very exciting things happening in the NASL this offseason. First, and most obviously, Indiana has added a team, the Indy Eleven, named both for the number of players on the pitch at one time, as well as the 11th Indiana Regiment from the Civil War.
More relevant for us, however, is this: All home games will be broadcast on KSTC-45, at 7:00 PM on Saturdays. This is a great chance to watch the team even when you can't make it to Blaine.
So far, MNU has played 3 games, against the Edmonton, Ottowa, and San Antonio. We have won all three, earning 9 points on the season (3 for a win, 1 each for a tie, 0 for a loss), which is enough to put MNU on the top of the league.
The first game of the season was against the San Antonio Scorpions. MNU and SAS have a bit of a rivalry going on, with the president of SAS taking shots at MNU's President Nick Rogers. Our guy Rogers denied ever making remarks about SAS, and the personal attacks were later removed, but there is no love lost between these teams.
The game was played away, in San Antonio, and featured some great attacks by both sides. Minnesota struck early, just 17 minutes in, with a beautiful strike by off-seaosn signing Cristiano Diaz from the middle of the penalty box. An SAS player was sent off with a red card shortly thereafter, so SAS had to finish the game with only 10 men (1 goalie+9 others). The play was back and forth for the rest of the game, until Kevin Venegas took a free kick from about 21 yards out and scored a beautiful goal. The rest of the game elapsed without notice or significant event.
MNU Makes it Two
The second game of the season was played between MNU and the Ottowa Fury (OTT), also away. This game was more evenly played; OTT was less aggressive than SAS had been, and so had less exposure to a counterattack. Play was very back-and-forth, until MNU's Miguell Ibarra, a long-time midfielder for the club scored off a beautiful back-heel pass from Christian Ramirez in the 36th minute. ot long after the half, however, Ottowa equalized as VVini Dantas found the net off a short cross by Donatelli. Play continued through substitutions by both teams. Things looked to end in a draw when MNU won a free kick from about 23 yards out. Kevin Venegas again took the kick and swung it in for Christian Ramirez's header to put MNU up for good. rd Time's a Charm
Minnesota United's third game was also their home opener at the National Sports Center in Blaine, against FC Edmonton (FCE). This was by far the quietest and tightest-played game, as both teams were starting to find their form. Play was back and forth for both halves, with both teams failing to connect on a number of chances.
Fortunes swayed in the 70th minute, when Italian stud Simone Bracalello was fouled in the penalty box, winning a penalty kick. He took the kick with his usual grace, and put the home team up by 1. After the penalty was scored, MNU sat further back to defend their lead, coaxing an Edmonton player into a final yellow card in the 88th minute, and United was 3-0 on the season, sitting solo at the top of the table.
The Next Step
Minnesota's next game is tonight, at 7:00 PM, again at the National Sports Center, in Blaine Minnesota. Tickets can be purchased at multiple price points, either at the ticket office at the stadium, or here on MNU's website. Usually, before and after each game, there is a party in the cities- watch MNU's Twitter feed for updates.
Tickets are cheap, and these guys are playing not only because they are talented, but because they are as passionate for their sport as the Wild are for theirs. Head on out and give them your support!
Photo courtesy of Minnesota United FC