Quick Hits: New TUF Videocast, End of Season Awards, MLS Playoff Pick ‘Em

New Two United Fans Videocast

Another great video podcast from two great guys. Check it out as they travel to Indy for Minnesota’s away match.

Fan Vote for End of Season Awards

Who knows if it’ll count in the end with all the shenanigans that seem to surround internet polls, but you can vote for the end of season awards at Minnesota’s website. Christian Ramirez is up for Young Player of the Year, Ibarra, Ramirez and Calvano are up for Player of the Year and Manny Lagos has been nominated for coach of the year.

MLS Playoff Pick ‘Em

Don’t forget to join our league for the MLS and get a chance to watch as I come in second to last place.

Even quicker hits

Minnesota United has a bus going from Brits to the first playoff game.

MPR indirectly quotes our “crown jewel” Wes Burdine in their article about a possible Farmer’s Market stadium.

Have a great rest of your week and here’s to a win this weekend against Carolina!

 

Loon Ratings 10/25/2014: Home against Scorpions

Well that was, different…..

20141025HomeAgainstScorpions

 

Player of the Match

With his incredible recovery and for the quick reminder that he is a true target striker Pablo Campos wins our man of the match.  With out many highlights that was the thing that stood out to me the most.

Defender of the Match

Have I said before that my personal favorite defender is Tiago Calvano, he had another consistent match.   And by the marks everyone gave him most everyone else agreed with me this week, so Tiago you are Defender of t he Match.

So I was told I need to add some extra questions, some fun and off the wall stuff.  Well I am not that creative – so send me your ideas reach me on the Tweeter machine.

To see all the details, check below the cut!

Continue reading

20141029_112402

Minnesota United FC Training Report

On Wednesday Minnesota United FC trained indoors at National Sports Center in Blaine. The team spent the first part of the morning reviewing video from Saturday’s 1-0 home loss to the San Antonio Scorpions. When the team emerged, they spent most of their time working on attacking the flanks. The Loons have not scored in three of their last four games and they will be looking to break a poor spell of results against the Carolina Railhawks in the final game of the regular season. You can listen to an excerpt of my audio report with Pablo Campos and Manny Lagos.

Opportunities Squandered

For the third time, the Loons have missed the opportunity to clinch the Fall Championship on Saturday by failing to get a point against the Scorpions. They go into this weekend needing a win to secure the silverware or for the Scorpions to stumble against the New York Cosmos.
Lagos admits frustration at their inability to secure silverware, but says “there’s a level of complacency that’s a reality about what the Fall Championship is.” The team went into the year wanting to win the Spring Championship and clinch home field advantage (by finishing atop the combined standings).
The Loons tried a different formation against the Scorpions with Rafael Burgos in the central attacking midfield role, what’s called playing “in the hole” behind the striker. Lagos says that Burgos might have been a bit nervous earning his first start and refused to point to any one player as underperforming that night.

Carolina

Saturday’s final game of the regular season presents the Loons with the opportunity to not only win silverware, but gain momentum for the playoffs. Lagos is not putting too much stock in the result this weekend. Rather, he says, “we have to make sure that we use this weekend that we’re going to be ready… to host the semi-finals of the NASL Championship.”
Despite leading the league in goals scored, the Loons have failed to score in three of their last games. The Scorpions exhibited a particularly effective counter-attacking strategy that the Loons failed to break through. Lagos says that they their video session tried to look at how to control the possession in the midfield and move more players into the attack.

PK Practice

At the end of training, all of the players took penalty kicks against all three goal keepers. After seven or eight rounds only three shots went over the bar (I won’t out who missed) and a few were saved. If only penalty kick shoot-outs were as low pressure as training, the Loons would be in perfect shape to put every shot into the corner of the net.
Lagos says that the team has not quite started to look to the up-coming semi-final, but noted that they wanted to start preparing and make sure they’re ready for penalty kicks if they need.

Pablo’s Return

Pablo Campos completed a near-miraculous return from tearing his ACL and MCL in preseason by returning to action in Saturday’s game. He only played eleven minutes, but presented a danger to the Scorpions back line.
Campos speaks of his return with equanimity, saying, “It was very nice to be on the field on Saturday.” But he adds that, “I’ve never felt like that before” saying that it was the first time he had been laid off of playing for so long.
During his time off of playing Campos was a regular in the stands cheering with fans and he credits the fans for being a big part of his return. “They saw Pablo Campos as a person and not as an athlete.”
For his part, Lagos says he was excited to see Campos back on the pitch and credits the entire staff and team for working with him to get him fit again.
When asked if he might use the league’s leading goal-scorer, Christian Ramirez, and Campos together, Lagos replied, “It’s nice [that his return] opens up opportunities for us to think about things like Christian and he together.” However, he notes that sort of tactical shift is something they’ll look at during the off-season when they have a full preseason to test it.

Injuries and Absences

The team reports no significant injuries. Miguel Ibarra and Christian Ramirez were both absent from practice. While the team tells me that this was a normally scheduled day-off for the two of them (players are getting days-off as the season draws toward the end), I choose to believe that they were having a Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, riding around in Miguel’s Sion and looking at art. Daniel Mendes also had a “scheduled day off,” so this means that he is the Sloane Peterson to Ramirez’s Ferris Bueller and Ibarra’s Cameron Frye.

FTLvEDM

NASL Power Ranking – October 27, 2014

As the postseason approaches on this final week, we know the names of three playoff contenders and their seeds (essentially we’ve known these three had it in the bag since the Spring Season). The fourth and final seed will be determined on this last week, but we suspect we know who’s going to win it too (and it’s the team we’ve backed all year long). Thanks to this past weekend’s results, we have a new #1 for the first time in a while. Drama abounds in the upper echelons of the league.

But as the season winds down, the drama at the bottom is compelling as well. One unlikely team is making a massive push for respectability and a number of once-contenders are wondering what went wrong.

Let’s jump in:

#1. San Antonio Scorpions (15-7-4,  49 points, Up 1)

SanAntonioScorpions150

For much of this season, the San Antonio Scorpions have failed to measure up to Minnesota United. But this isn’t a power ranking about the whole season, this is one that counts what’s happening now, and on Saturday, the Scorpions made a big statement with a scrappy, physical away win over their league rivals.

It wasn’t jogo bonito—the Scorpions clearly had a plan to break up play as much as possible and Minnesota fans were furious that the pliant referee played along. But it was effective, and that’s the only thing that matters. The Scorpions now have a meaningful chance of winning the Fall Season if the Loons stumble again, and will head into their back-to-back meetings with the Cosmos (both at home, with the latter being a playoff semi-final) with a good deal of confidence. San Antonio are the only NASL team to have won at least once against every other team in the league. They will have the first playoff game at home, and the second one will either be at home or in Minnesota. Either way, Scorpions fans and players have every right to be optimistic.

#2. Minnesota United FC (16-4-6,  54 points, Down 1)

MinnesotaUnitedFC150

After blowing away the competition for much of the season, Minnesota United is now mired in a stretch of four games with only four points. That’s not good enough for the Loons, and warning signs abound. The team has not scored in 180 minutes at home, the center backs have been spit on several crucial occasions (none more so than Cristiano Dias’ poor positioning on the San Antonio winner), and the passing, especially in the final third, is all out of whack.

Head Coach Manny Lagos and his staff have just one more match to turn this late season skid around, because there will be no room for error in the postseason.

In fairness, Minnesota still is a strong team. In this recent bumpy stretch, United had the run of play against Indy and New York but failed to finish golden opportunities. It was only in this most recent game against San Antonio that the Loons looked particularly lost. Throughout the year, this Minnesota team has responded well to adversity. Perhaps it was necessarily that they got another reminder of their mortality before the big moment.

#3. Fort Lauderdale Strikers (11-9-6,  39 points, Up 1)

FortLauderdaleStrikers150

Fort Lauderdale spent much of the season battling with Carolina and Tampa Bay for the fourth position in the league table. Having seen both of their rivals off, the Strikers had to stay sharp to contend with one final challenge from a surging FC Edmonton team. It was a close affair, but in the end, the Strikers have seemingly dispatched their final threat, and are poised to secure the final playoff spot on the last week of the season with a win or (almost certainly) a draw at home against the Fury. (If Carolina loses or draws against Minnesota, the Strikers will also be through).

The interesting thing about the Strikers is how much they’ve been a barometer of quality in the league. They are 1-6-2 against the three teams confirmed for the playoffs. Against the rest of the league, they are only 10-3-4. It has long seemed fitting to us that Fort Lauderdale should be the fourth team in the postseason, since they have been so consistently better than their rivals for that spot, and so consistently worse than 2013’s long established “big three”.

#4. FC Edmonton (9-10-7,  34 points, Down 1)

FCEdmonton150

Saturday’s game against Fort Lauderdale was a literal win or go home for FC Edmonton. Sadly for our neighbors to the north, the latter option has become their fate, as the 0-1 loss to the Strikers doomed the Montons to their third straight season without making the playoffs.

But even if they fall short, Edmonton should be commended for the remarkable run they put together in the stretch run of the season. We detailed their achievement last week, but it bears repeating. In last place in the Fall Season’s third week, the Montons moved into position to control their playoff destiny with just two weeks to spare. That they ultimately dropped it in a close away match is a credit to their opponents, and no real discredit to the black and blue.

It’s hard to really guess at what will happen in Alberta next season. With a handful of weird “home” matches in the oil sands town of Fort McMurray  (thanks to the Women’s World Cup), it’s already going to be a bit of a tumultuous year for the Montons off the field. Do they have the talent to contend on the field? This team has plenty of talent, and if they can hold onto their best players, especially 17 year old Hanson Boakai, then they could be a threat in years to come.

#5.  Carolina RailHawks (11-11-4,  37 points, Up 1)

CarolinaRailhawks150

By virtue of their casual victory over an awful Atlanta team, the RailHawks are the only team remaining to challenge Fort Lauderdale for the fourth and final playoff spot. The odds are against them. Not only will Carolina need to beat Minnesota United next week, but they will need the Strikers to lose. If the Strikers draw, then Carolina would need to beat the Loons by at least four to hold the tiebreaker edge.

We don’t think it’s particularly likely to happen. But we’re not ruling it out on account of the RailHawks being the downright least consistent team in the league. The record says it all. Eleven wins and eleven losses. Hardly any draws to speak of. Carolina has beaten the LA Galaxy and Chivas USA this season. They’ve also lost 1-6 to Edmonton and 0-4 to Ottawa. Betting on the result of the Carolina game is like lighting your money on fire.

#6. New York Cosmos (11-6-9,  42 points, Down 1)

NewYorkCosmos150For the first time in what feels like forever, the Cosmos recorded a huge win in the stands, drawing 8,565 to Shuart Stadium for the final home game of the year (unless they and the #4 seed win the playoff semi-finals). Unfortunately for the green and white, the team on the field was not as successful, stumbling to a late 2-2 draw against the hapless Rowdies thanks a downright shocking goalkeeping performance from Jimmy Maurer.

We’ll save yet another stab at explaining what’s wrong with the Cosmos for our playoff preview. Instead, we’ll just point out that with one game left in the Fall Season, the Cosmos, a team that has known nothing but success in their short history, are just a single point ahead of Indy Eleven, a team already synonymous with futility. If it weren’t for New York’s tremendous Spring Season effort, the defending champs wouldn’t be getting a second chance at another Soccer Bowl.

#7. Indy Eleven (6-12-8,  26 points, No Change)

IndyEleven150

The hottest team in the NASL right now is Indy Eleven. Yep, Indy Eleven.

The league attendance darlings have finally found success in the one place that has eluded them so far: on the field. With two incredible wins (and shutouts) against Minnesota and San Antonio to close out their remarkable home season, the Eleven took their traveling wrecking crew on the road to Ottawa and compellingly beat their expansion buddies for the first time in their history.

That’s three wins in three games, and with the Eleven’s season finale being played against the Tampa Bay Rowdies, there is a serious likelihood that Indy finish with a remarkable four game winning streak. If that occurs, the Eleven could place as high as fifth place in the Fall Season and as high as seventh in the overall table.

What a world we live in.

#8. Ottawa Fury (7-14-5,  26 points, No Change)

OttawaFuryFC150

Sports is littered with cliches about winning. One of our favorites is “good teams find a way to win”, which is used in the context of a favorite undeservedly winning against an underdog. It applies to basically all of Minnesota United’s games against the Fury this year.

In fact, the Fury have waged a yearlong campaign to legitimize that statement. How else to explain a team with a fairly decent -4 differential that sits a full 13 points behind a team (FTL) just three goals better? No team has been more gallant in defeat, more often than Ottawa. Unfortunately for them, that hasn’t really done them much good. The Fury are well out of the playoff picture, and tooling around the bottom of the league.

In the final week, Ottawa will travel to Florida to play the Strikers in a match that should, on paper, be well matched. But just as they did in their two previous meetings this season, the odds are that the Strikers will find a way to win. Or should we say, the Fury will find a way to lose?

#9. Tampa Bay Rowdies (7-11-8,  29 points, No Change)

TampaBayRowdies150

The Rowdies actually mustered a fairly impressive result this past weekend, earning a draw against the Cosmos thanks to Evans Frimpong’s two interventions and some comically bad goalkeeping from Jimmy Mauer. But placed in context, it’s a rare “bright” spot in a dark dark series of weeks for Tampa.

Big questions will be asked of this Rowdies team in the offseason. For the present, we’ll stick to questions like: how the hell does Matt Pickens get beat here?

#10. Atlanta Silverbacks (6-15-5,  23 points,  No Change)

AtlantaSilverbacks150

The 0-2 loss to the Carolina RailHawks wasn’t the worst part of the week for Atlanta Silverbacks fans.

On Thursday, the team publicly released a statement confirming that they face an uncertain future as a club. The history of the Atlanta side traces back to 1994, and despite recent mismanagement, it would be sad to seem them go extinct. But the NASL is a league that continues to pretend that the Virginia Calvary and Oklahoma City FC are things that actually exist. If the league is admitting that the Silverbacks may be on the verge of disbanding, chances seem reasonably high that this Sunday’s trip to Edmonton will be team’s final competitive game.

As fans of a team that just two years ago was facing a similar fate, we feel the same gut punch for Atlanta fans. We hope that a future path for the Silverbacks can be found.


Last week’s rankings: October 20, 2014

MNUvSAS2

Post Game Interviews with Manny Lagos, Pablo Campos and Brian Kallman

It was a tough game, and it was obvious that Manny Lagos was not happy with the result.

Manny Lagos

Sorry about sound at the beginning of the interview. We had been able to t We spoke about the defense, the complacency, the ref, the two new starters in Kallman and Burgos, and Pablo Campos.

 

Pablo Campos

Asked Pablo how it felt to come back after so long off and if the Scorpions game was the one you were hoping to come back for.

Brian Kallman

Asked Brian about getting playing time and his use as a throw in specialist. Also, for those playing along at home, he busts out the Mannyism, “At the end of the day.”

Value of a Goal, Congrats Georgi Hristov Edition

As always, big thanks to Steve Lilly (@backtozerouk) for letting us share these with you. 

Поздравления (Congratulations) Georgi Hristov

With his 38th minute goal on Saturday for Tampa Bay Rowdies at the Atlanta Silverbacks Georgi Hristov has now scored more goals for a single modern NASL team than any other player. Atlanta is quite possibly Georgi’s favorite team to play with 8 of those goals coming against the Silverbacks. In fact Georgi has scored against every current NASL team except the Fort Lauderdale Strikers. Georgi’s record below shows his consistency putting the ball in the back of the net.

Years

Team

Apps

(Gls)

2002–2007

Maritsa Plovdiv

111

(51)

2007–2008

Botev Plovdiv

30

(19)

2008–2010

Levski Sofia

38

(12)

2010

 Wisła Kraków (loan)

2

(0)

2010–2012

Slavia Sofia

30

(4)

2012

Lokomotiv Sofia

13

(2)

2013–

Tampa Bay Rowdies

46

(21)

Feast or Famine

Ok so we went from 6 goals in a week up to 29 then 7. Even a team that wins 7-0 one week fails to score and loses 1-0 to lower ranked opposition the following week. So only Georgi and Jaime Chavez of the top ten scored this week both moving up a place to 3rd and 7th respectively.

 

Name Club Goals Total Value
  1. Ramirez
Minnesota 19 83.53
  1. Picault
Fort Lauderdale 12 46.65
  1. Hristov
New York *9 44.93
  1. Shipalane
Carolina 5 44.50
  1. Heinemann
Ottawa 6 36.50
Kleberson Indianapolis 8 34.57
  1. Chavez
Atlanta *8 31.50
  1. Mendes
Minnesota 9 27.73
  1. Guenzatti
New York 4 27.20
  1. Ibarra
Minnesota 8 27.10

Fun Stuff

Christian Ramirez has scored against every team except Carolina this season and Minnesota’s last regular season game is at home to Carolina so look out Akira.

53 penalties have been awarded this season, 39 were scored, 10 were saved and 4 were off target including Christian Ramirez of Minnesota United in the 86th minute of the 0-0 draw with New York Cosmos.

Matt Pickens of Tampa Bay Rowdies has saved 3 penalties in 3 different games.

The 116th player to get on the score sheet this season and 271st overall is Carolina’s wonderfully named Nacho Novo is it wrong for me to imagine he plays in a Lucha Libre Mask see below.

I am getting nervous now, with 13 games left there still has not been a goal scored in the 2nd and 35th minutes

Who is conceding goals

Ottawa despite only conceding 35 goals heads the table of teams that give up the most goal value. This position is due to the low number of goals and close games the team has. At the bottom not surprisingly are the three misers who give little away or are generally ahead when the opponent scores. But take a look at who is causing the damage; these are the individuals with the most goals against each club this season so far.

Team

Conceded

Value

Nemesis

Team

Goals

OTT

35

169.70

C. Ramirez

MNU

4

TBR

46

168.53

C. Ramirez/F. Picault

MNU/FTL

3

IND

44

158.27

C. Ramirez/P. Cruz

MNU/ATL

3

ATL

46

157.10

G. Hristov

NYC

4

EDM

27

126.31

D. Mendes

MNU

3

CAR

41

120.35

D. Fordyce/Oliver

EDM/OTT

4

FTL

38

117.13

C. Ramirez/M. Ibarra

MNU/MNU

3

SAS

23

90.43

F. Picault/M. Ibarra/J. Sandoval

FTL/MNU/ATL

2

NYC

24

88.29

T. Shipalane/R. Castillo/D. Sandoval

CAR/SAS/CAR

2

MNU

25

75.63

G. Hristov/Kleberson/L. Laing

NYC/IND/EDM

2

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