MNUFC ready for first road test of 2013
A classic battle looms Saturday night in Atlanta, as offense hosts defense in North American Soccer League action. A spot at the top of the table is up for grabs at Silverback Park as the Atlanta Silverbacks welcome Minnesota United FC for a 6:30 p.m. CDT kick off.
The match marks Minnesota’s first roadtrip of the season after playing at home April 6 and 20 and completing the first of two bye weeks in between. Healthy and well rested, head coach Manny Lagos said he’ll learn a great deal about his team over the course of the next few games.
He said: “It’s our first roadtrip. There’s a nice confidence, but there’s also some nervousness after our last training session before we travel. Every year is a different story, this team is learning about itself, and you learn a lot about your character when you’re on the road. Not to say all is on this one game, but we’re excited for the challenge.”
The two sides have used very different approaches in their first two games of the season, with Minnesota posting back-to-back shutouts in a season opening draw with San Antonio and a 2-0 win last Saturday against FC Edmonton and Atlanta scoring six goals in consecutive wins over Fort Lauderdale and the defending champion Tampa Bay Rowdies. With the league-leading Carolina RailHawks sitting idle this weekend, Saturday night will see a change at the top of the standings. A victory by Minnesota would see United FC move into at least a share of first place, while Atlanta will move to the summit outright with a win and claim a share of the top spot with a draw.
While Lagos isn’t concerning himself with position in the table only a quarter of the way through the season, the importance of setting a consistent tone early isn’t a point he’s letting get lost on his team.
“The full-time whistle will blow Saturday night and no matter what we’ll have a game the next week against Carolina to prepare for,” he said, “but we’re trying to get three points and get off to a good start with the dual season, so no doubt it’s very important.”
Minnesota’s defense could see the pressure lifted somewhat by the expected debut of 2012 NASL MVP and leading scorer Pablo Campos, who is eligible Saturday after serving a two-game suspension to open the season. Campos was shown a red card during the 2012 league semifinals while playing against Minnesota for the San Antonio Scorpions.
“Unlike all the other guys, this is his first game, and as a team we’re excited to have him on the field and think he can help raise the level,” Lagos said. “Pablo has been working hard for the last two months to have his season start, so on a personal level, I’m excited to see him get out and step on the field for all the work he’s put in.”
AT A GLANCE
Minnesota United FC at Atlanta Silverbacks
Silverback Park, Atlanta, Ga.
Kickoff: 6:30 p.m. CDT
Broadcast: MNUnitedFC.com, AtlantaSilverbacks.com/FC, NASL.com/Live
Twitter updates: @MNUnitedFC, @ATLSilverbacks, #ATLvMNU
Complete NASL Week 4 schedule
Atlanta Silverbacks vs. Minnesota United FC, 6:30 p.m. Saturday
Fort Lauderdale Strikers vs. Tampa Bay Rowdies, 6:30 p.m. Saturday
FC Edmonton vs. San Antonio Scorpions, 3:00 p.m. Sunday
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