1. There is still much going on in the soccering worlds, and while the most important thing remains the belated reckoning that is taking place within the NWSL and women’s soccer, the more local bit of big news seems to be the now made official announcement that Minnesota United will host the 2022 MLS All-Star Game. All-star games are, of course, rather odd: games without much consequence or meaning or depth, they are an indication of how much sport here is often more spectacle than anything else. And how much all sporting consequence and meaning is constructed through the stories we tell within the rules we create. Dr. Bill McGuire, managing director and principal owner of MNUFC, was right in his comments at the announcement ceremony that the all-star week is the “premier event for soccer in North America.” There are, certainly, more important games. But the all-star game, as a game and as a week of peripheral activities, is an Event. And as an event it will be quite exciting to participate in. Hopefully it will also do a bit of good for the community and for soccer in the state. Although, given the Gopher’s current form, the excitement around MNWoSO, and the ever-steady local presence of Mpls City SC, to offer up a rather metro-centric determination of MN soccer, it is hard to see where exactly the sporting help is needed. But amidst much talk of supporters and community at the announcement, it was St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter who offered the clearest understanding of what role a Big Sporting Event plays within a community, noting that “the ability to bring the world’s game right here to a neighborhood, to a community, to a city that is host to people from all over the world, in which our community members speak over 100 different languages at home, is an important victory for our community.” And, as he continued with some hopeful aspiration and prodding, “the vision of transformation that we have together for this entire area around us, that we can use Allianz Field as a catalyst for continuing the economic development and growth that we know is so critical to the future in St. Paul and Minneapolis.” The club has had a slow start in learning to be a good neighbor, but everyone seemed to be saying the right things at the announcement and so maybe this will also be a good step in a better direction.
2. Much has been made of Ján Greguš’ stunner at Tuesday’s open practice.
bicycle, bicycle, bicycle— Minnesota United FC (@MNUFC) October 6, 2021
Jan wants to ride his bicycle pic.twitter.com/072acksHa5
It was, among other things, a very good sign that he is fully recovered. As was the presence of Hassani Dotson at practice. Both offering a small bit of reassurance as the team heads into Sunday’s match against the Colorado Rapids with another short roster. All of which is to also say that Greguš’ goal was a reminder that two of the team’s three Designated Players are, or at least were, out of favor and having a hard time finding playing time in a season when goals have been as hard to come by as a full squad.
3. At a time when most of our lives are being reduced to analytics and algorithms, soccer remains wonderfully resistant. Even as some of the most important work in data analytics is coming out of attempts to understand the game, the game itself as it is played can’t quite figure out its own desire for objectivity. And so we have exhibits A and B, Ryan Hollingshead and Emanuel Reynoso. One, a disallowed goal from a proper if harsh interpretation of a rule that has been written to remove any decision making from the referee and the other, a red card given harshly and with great consequence from a play that was dangerous but debatably worthy of ejection. MNUFC has appealed Reynoso’s red card, and although I do not claim any knowledge of the internal workings and pressures of the disciplinary review committee, I would be surprised if they overturned the call: it was reckless and dangerous, a frustrated lunge after a poor touch that, once committed too, resulted in a studs first tackle into the ankle. The two plays will be endlessly parsed, and if that parsing is well-done it will be in conjunction with Ethan Finlay’s penalty against Vancouver, until a new shiny object of our collective dismay arrives. So here I will simply say that soccer is wonderfully and beautifully and maddeningly unfair and irrational. And that really is its grace.