Loons to host historic playoff game
Minnesota United may have needed some help to lock down a first-round playoff game at Allianz Field, but the ultimate reward is well-earned and much deserved.
Despite dropping its regular season finale 1-0 to Seattle, another team that was jockeying for a playoff position, MNUFC will host L.A. Galaxy in its first-ever playoff game on Sunday October 20.
The delay between the end of the regular season and the start of the MLS playoffs is to accommodate FIFA international play, and like their competitors, MNUFC will be working closely with international teams to set up player travel plans and to try to get cooperation from those teams to limit playing time.
The Loons and Galaxy tied at Allianz Field 0-0 back in April, while the Galaxy won 3-2 in L.A. back in March.
The game will be played just one day after St. John’s and St. Thomas renew their football rivalry on the newly installed turf in the stadium where MNUFC have lost just once all season.
Brilliant soccer careers end on same weekend
Two remarkable soccer careers came to an end this weekend. In Chicago, Jill Ellis ended her 5-year run as coach of the U.S. Women’s National Team with a 1-1 tie against South Korea.
The retiring Ellis won a record 106-games in 132 matches, including World Cup victories in 2015 and 2019, seasons that earned Ellis Coach of the Year honors.
Ellis’ steady hand guided a team in transition this past summer, that saw stalwarts like Allie Krieger and Carli Lloyd go from starting roles to reserves, and the emergence of the next wave of U.S. talent in players like Forward Rose Lavelle.
Ellis will continue with U.S. Soccer in the role of ambassador.
The sun also set on the playing career of goalkeeper Tim Howard.
A U.S. Soccer legend, Howard is that rarity: an American who actually made it to the English Premier league.
As a child, Howard was switched to goalkeeper against his wishes, but it was a move that turned out well. 121 International appearances, team records for most starts (119), most wins (62) and second in shutouts at 42. Howard’s playing career, which includes 16 years with the USMNT, lasted 22 years and 815 appearances.
A 3-time MLS All-Star, Howard was diagnosed with Tourette Syndrome at age 12 and has gone on to serve as a spokesperson for those who live with it.
Both Ellis and Howard are class personified and great examples of people who leave the game in a better place then where they found it.
Right guy leading St. Thomas petition to join D-1
It was announced that the University of St. Thomas, which was recently and unceremoniously kicked out of the MIAC, is petitioning the NCAA to join the D-I Summit League, pending approval of their waver claim to go directly from Division III athletics to D-I.
Normally a school must go to Division II before moving up to D-I, but the Tommies situation is anything but normal.
Leading the way is Tommies Athletic Director Phil Esten, a guy who worked on getting TCF Bank Stadium built while at the U of M and who helped guide Penn State University through the nightmare of the Joe Paterno, Jerry Sandusky nightmare.
I first became aware of then P.J. Esten back in 1989, as an undersized option quarterback at LaCrosse Aquinas High School before he went on to play college baseball at St. Thomas. Esten is not only one of the finest administrators, but also one of the finest men I have had the opportunity to meet.
Whatever the NCAA ultimately decides concerning the petition to join D-1 in 2021, the future of St. Thomas athletics is in fine hands.