Image Courtesy of Minnesota United FC

Minnesota Topple San Antonio, Take Back the Table

Minnesota United FC has defeated their greatest rival this season twice, after a 2-0 victory over the San Antonio Spurs last night. Miguel Ibarra added 2 goals to his tally, putting the Loons on top of the Fall and Combined tables with 22 and 44 points, respectively.

Manny Lagos made a single change from last week, bringing in Juliano Vicentini in place of Michael Reed. In goal was the man with the birthday, Matt Van Oekel, and he did NOT have an easy night.

The First Half

The first half began very hesitantly at first, with neither team wanting to give up an early lead. Ironically, the hesitancy to move forward would cause the scoreline to break early. Just 18 minutes in, Daniel Mendes robbed the Texas midfield, and quickly back-passed to captain Aaron Pitchkolan. Pitch dropped the ball for Greg Jordan, who popped a through-ball for Miguel Ibarra. Number 10 calmly slotted a side-footed pass around sprawling keeper Josh Saunders for the first goal of the evening.

After earning the lead, the Loons sat back a bit, allowing San Antonio to attack. Matt Van Oekel held the scoreline, stopping shots and playing sweeper. The second half would end with both sides having had chances, but only Ibarra‘s early effort being converted.

The Second Half

The Scorpions poured on the pressure in the second half. Van Oekel and others were called on to maintain the Loons’ lead. Finally, the Scorpions overcommitted forward. Greg Jordan played a long ball out of Minnesota’s half, allowing Miguel Ibarra to outrun the Texas defense, dip around Josh Saunders (again), and slot home his second of the game. Early on Sunday, Nick Rogers tweeted out this gif of the goal, showcasing Ibarra’s speed.

With nothing left to lose, San Antonio pushed forward again. Continued defensive efforts by the Loons  would keep the scoreline, though it was close. Multiple times.

Perhaps just as important as the 2 goals scored by a player not named Ramirez is the clean sheet kept by the Loons; the first since July 19 against Swansea City. The Loons have let in some very silly goals due to defensive lapses, and it was good to see them hold a team scoreless.

Next week, the Loons will play the Ottawa Fury in Canada. Full highlights from last night’s game are below, and the two teams’ recaps are here: MNUFC, SAS.

Image Courtesy of Minnesota United FC

Ultimate Showdown: MNUFC at SAS Game Preview

We need some music for this. Hold on a second.

Ok, now we’re ready.

This weekend, Minnesota United FC will travel to Texas to take on the Fall-Season-Table-Leading San Antonio Scorpions. This game has 6-point-swing potential, and while it doesn’t have playoff implications for the Loons, is about as big as “statement games” get.

San Antonio, dominant for much of the Fall season, has struggled recently. Since August, they gone 3-1-3 (W-D-L), including 2 losses in the past 3 weeks (to Carolina and FC Edmonton).

Minnesota has suffered in their recent run of form as well, only winning one match since their 5-1 walloping of the Indy Eleven. Since that day (August 16), MNUFC have lost once and drawn twice.

Statistically, Minnesota has a slight advantage, with 1 more goal scored and one fewer goal conceded in the fall season (with 4 more goals scored and 1 fewer goal allowed over the combined season). Both teams have 4 Red Cards over the combined season, with the Scorpions having 12 more Yellow Cards than the Loons.

As usual, the biggest three question marks lie between the sticks, and one apiece in the defensive and attacking midfield. Matt Van Oekel may have won the starting job back last week with the win over Fort Lauderdale. 

After finally finding a win last week, I find it hard to believe Manny Lagos will change his side too much. San Antonio will likely try to dominate through the speed of their players, and Michael Reed in the midfield adds good speed. Greg Jordan provides a strong presence in the central attacking midfield, and plays as an anchor for Miguel Ibarra to work his magic. Christian Ramirez will be looking to score again in Texas, and I’m sure Kevin Venegas wouldn’t mind doubling his tally against the Southern team either.

Whatever team is fielded, we can be sure to have a fiery match, with neither team likely to be happy with a draw.

Kickoff is at 7:30, CST, with the official watch party at Brit’s Pub. The game will also be streamed on ESPN 3 and NASL Live.

San Antonio Preview

Minnesota United FC Preview

 

mls-mn-banner

Here’s what Minnesota United FC’s ‘MLS Next’ shield might look like

Thursday morning, MLS announced their long awaited new brand, retiring the trusty cleat and ball after 19 years of service.

The new league shield is minimalist by design, it is intended to be adapted by member clubs to make club-specific versions.  With that in mind, we fired up our good friends, MS Paint and Photoshop, to imagine a couple versions of what Minnesota United’s contribution to the new MLS logo might look like.

mnufcmls

 

The club’s home jerseys are grey and black, but the club’s primary color is probably the light blue of the away kits. We started with that in the upper left half.

Clubs will undoubtedly add more than just solid colors to their bottom half of the crest, and so we added the loon:

mnufcmls5

 

The stars could also be white:

mnufcmls6

Here’s another concept, this time with just  the iconic loon wings.

mnufcmls7

No doubt MNUFC’s designers can do better than us on this concept, if the club wanted to anchor the wings on the bottom left, the length and shape would need to be slightly changed.

Another concept, this time replacing the stars with Dark Clouds:

 

mnufcmlsclouds2mnufcmlsclouds

Les nuages ​​du nord!


 

One final, obligatory, idea that probably won’t make it:

mnufcmlscraig

 

Which design is your favorite? Let us know in the comments!

Congrats to Venegas, Ramirez and Ibarra for making the NASL team of the Week

Ibarra and Ramirez are easy picks, with my pick for MVP of the league, Ibarra, finally scoring a goal and Ramirez scoring his league leading 15th goal of the season.

Venegas is an interesting choice. While he did have an assist on the Ramirez’s goal, the miscommunication between him and Reed led to the first Ft. Lauderdale goal.  Still, Venegas has been a fantastic player for Minnesota this year.

Did anyone get left off you thought should get credit on the NASL team of the week for Minnesota, or around the league?  Sound off in the comments below!

24

Does Minnesota “deserve” an MLS team, or more importantly, does anyone “deserve” an MLS team?

Yesterday there was a powerful, emotional article by Alicia Rodriquez for the Goat Parade, the SB Nation blog for Chivas USA.

It covered the common themes that go into the grief of losing or possibly losing a pro sports team. As a Browns fan, I definitely understand the frustration and heartache with losing a team.

That wasn’t the part of the article that struck me, though. It’s the idea of “deserving” an MLS team. We use that term a lot, but should we? And what does it mean when we say “deserving”? Who is deserving?

What does “deserving” mean?

When fans of soccer in the US speak of “deserving” an MLS team, they are usually talking about a fanbase deserving an MLS team.  Does the fanbase have the size and support necessary to support an MLS team?

However, this idea of deserving being based on fanbase size is too limiting. The recent of history of MLS and lower level soccer is filled with examples of fanbases who appeared to not deserve MLS teams who started showing up once there was an MLS team, like Seattle or Real Salt Lake. Or a team like Sporting Kansas City who 5 years ago looked as good as dead rebranding and getting a gorgeous stadium and suddenly selling out game after game.

Alicia Rodriquez is like a number of us following soccer in the US who deserve a team that matches our passion and commitment.  When you have that, you see successes like RSL, Sporting KC, Seattle or Portland.

Is it a question of fairness?

I suspect for many fans, the reason there is a feeling that it isn’t fair for a city like LA to have two teams is that major sections of the country do not have one. Nor does it seem fair for teams with incredibly strong support in the lower divisions to see a team struggle to draw 4,000 to games.

But is it fair for fans, no matter how small that fanbase might be, to lose their team?  Fans in most cities in the US can understand the frustration being felt by those fans as they see that their team isn’t valued by the league or by other teams.

A new definition for “deserve”?

Ultimately “deserving” is an opinion, a qualitative rather than quantitative description.  Still, there might be some a way in which we can speak of how much a city “deserves” an expansion team.

It’s important to remember, if a city had to score well on every single one of these metrics, we wouldn’t have teams like Real Salt Lake or the Portland Timbers.  There is one non-negotiable, and that is money.

Deserving Metrics

  1. Money Is there an owner lined up who has the pockets to first purchase a franchise and then fund the team as it will likely run in the red for the first few seasons, at least. Are there sponsors who will support the team?
  2. Population Is there a big enough population in the area to support the team?
  3. Passion Is there a passionate fanbase of soccer fans in the area. We’ve seen time and time again that soccer supporters groups can help convince ownership groups to move to or expand to a city.
  4. Stadium Is there a reasonable location for a new stadium, or a place that the team can play? Without a stadium, teams often will struggle to draw sizeable crowds.
  5. Location Does the location of the city in the US provide something valuable to MLS? Is it nearby other teams that it could provide a rivalry with? Or is it in an area of the country without MLS right now?

For Chivas USA, the club scores low on too many of these metrics, for now.  While they do have a passionate fanbase, they are few in number and the uncertainty is costing them fans by the day.  The fanbase is deserving of a quality club to support, but it’s difficult to say that they are deserving of an MLS club.

The biggest issues facing the club are the lack of a home stadium and lack of an owner with money. These are not reasons to give up on Los Angeles. Minnesota is a perfect example of the potential rewards for a league staying a media market and waiting to find the right owner. Just two years back the league-owned Minnesota Stars were the Chivas USA of the NASL. At the eleventh hour, Bill McGuire purchased the team, rebranded them Minnesota United FC, and invested in the future.

Chivas USA could be a Sporting KC kind of turn around, but letting them go on hiatus for a season would be a terrible decision on the part of MLS, as it will disconnect that core fanbase that currently supports the team. MLS may need these fans when Chivas is rebranded and restarted. But with a hiatus, Chivas 2.0 would essentially be a brand new team, and who’s to blame old Chivas fans for not feeling welcomed back?

For Minnesota fans, we wouldn’t mind Chivas folding and moving, because that would give another spot to the markets that are currently vying for the final MLS expansion spot by 2020.  But is that fair to do to Chivas USA fans after we’ve experienced being “the team that nobody wanted” and see it turn around to be one of the most successful lower division clubs?

How Does Minnesota fare on the “Deserving Metrics”?

Minnesota has two competing ownership groups that have made their desires of owning an MLS franchise in Minnesota known, the Vikings and the current Minnesota United FC ownership group.

In both cases, there is the population in Minnesota to support an MLS franchise, as Minnesota is around the 15th largest media market in the US. The two ownership groups have plenty of money to purchase an expansion franchise. And location is great for MLS, who have focused heavily on the two coasts, but have few teams in the midwest.

For the Vikings, they bring with them a stadium located near downtown Minneapolis that the team could grow into. While many fans would hate to see a Minnesota soccer team play indoors, there are strong weather and political reasons to see this stadium be a strong positive in any bid for an MLS team.

Minnesota United FC lack the stadium, currently playing in the northern suburbs at a converted track and field stadium, but it many people’s eyes they more than make up for it in the passion of their fans and the front office.  The Vikings bid currently lacks that passion, as no local soccer fan group has come out to say they are behind a Vikings bid.

Minnesota has two strong bids, and do well on the metrics of “deserving” an MLS team. Time will tell if the league feels they are the best candidate for one of the remaining spots. In the meantime, fans will keep arguing whether LA, Sacramento, San Antonio, Indianapolis or Las Vegas are “deserving”.  Until then, we’ll just have to argue our points on the message boards.

So, do you think Minnesota is deserving of an MLS team? Does Chivas USA not deserve an MLS team?  Any other locations deserving of an MLS team?

 

Updates to NASL Goal Value Table

Editors Note: Steve Lilly, aka @backtozerouk, is back again with another look at the value of an NASL goal along with a look at some of the stats behind the value of a goal.  Thanks for sharing with us! 

Not much change at the top

There was very little change in the goal scoring chart this week. Only 1 player in the top 10 scored, that almost inevitably was Christian Ramirez of Minnesota United with a first half equalizer at home to Fort Lauderdale Strikers. The only other change to the table was the addition of Tomasz Zahorski in at 8th with his goal for San Antonio Scorpions bringing them within 1 goal of the Carolina Railhawks.

Name

Club

Goals

Total Value

Ramirez

Minnesota

15

57.93

Shipalane

Carolina

5

44.50

Kleberson

Indianapolis

8

34.57

Picault

Fort Lauderdale

8

34.42

Hristov

New York

6

32.93

Heinemann

Ottawa

4

30.83

Chavez

Atlanta

7

27.50

Guenzatti

New York

4

27.20

Zahorski

San Antonio

6

25.67

Mendes D

Minnesota

8

24.73

Fun Stuff

There still has not been a goal scored in the 2nd, 11th, 35th, 39th, or 67th minute.

Miguel Ibarra’s 54th Minute winner for Minnesota United reduced this count over the weekend.

This was yet another goal in Minnesota’s most productive quarter hour right after the break which begs the question “How scary is a Manny Lagos’s half time rant?”

I discovered a great website for NASL results http://www.soccer24.com/usa/north-american-soccer-league/results/

Using their goal times I amended a few stats for the 90 and 90+ goal times

12 Goals have been scored in the 90th minute

10 goals have been scored after the 90th minute

There have been 4 Own Goals this year, all for different teams and scored by different teams

None of these has been a game deciding or even game tying goal

There have been no goalscorers with a surname starting with the letters Q, X, or Y.

Elizondo scored for the San Antonio Scorpions against the Atlanta Silverbacks on 08/23 and has the given name Cesar Gerado Elizondo Quesada.

There are no surnames beginning with X in the league.

Takuya Yamada is the only player in the league whose surname begins with Y.

Two Johnsons have made it on the scoresheet.

Jemal at New York Cosmos.

Jermaine at Indy Eleven.

Christian Ramirez’s 15 goals from 19 games in 2014 so far is just 5 short of the NASL single season record.

Christian has 8 games left and at his current pace of 0.8 goals per game is due for 6 more before the play-offs to put him on 21 ahead of:

2013 Brian Shriver, Carolina Railhawks 15

2012 Pablo Campos, San Antonio Scorpions 20

2011 Etienne Barbabra, Carolina Railhawks 20

Other Stuff

Through this website I have been introduced to @DaveLaidig who has provided me with some valuable statistical advice and help which is leading to far more in-depth research. I hope to be able to bring in information from the 2011-2013 NASL seasons to create a broader data set which can then be applied to determine a more accurate value of a goal. This will likely be based on the expected number of points a team would gain at the game situation when the goal was scored.

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