Tuesday, 19 July 2016

Who are Minnesota United FC? FiftyFive.One tells AFCB fans what to expect

Rival Lines
Match Preview
Minnesotta United FC v AFCB
Blogger Interview: FiftyFive.One
Twitter: @Fiftyfiveone

As AFC Bournemouth are lining up to play in America this week, I got in touch with Wes Burdine, the managing editor of Fiftyfive.one which follows the success of the Minnessota United FC team. Wes is also very knowledgeable about the Premier League as well and he is more than a little interested in how AFCB new signing Emerson Hyndman is going to do this coming season.

CC: Your website is called Fiftyfive.one where does that idea come from?

The average high temperature in Minnesota is 55.1 Farenheit. There is a long history of weather-related soccer themes here from our old team the Minnesota Thunder to the supporters group The Dark Clouds. Our website is particularly focused on soccer news in "the North."

CC: Minnesota is not yet a member of the MLS but is probably joining in 2017 or 2018. How much of a step up with this be for the club from the NASL it plays in now?

 It will be a massive step. I'm not sure if it quite relates to the jump from the English Championship to the Premiership. It would probably be like making a sudden jump from League 2 to the Championship. The infrastructure, marketing, playing quality is all just so much better in MLS.

CC: You currently play at the National Sports Center a few miles north of Minneapolis in a 10,000 capacity stadium - would the MLS mean a new home for the team in St Paul and does this cause many problems for fans?

FFO: One of the biggest transitions from NASL to MLS is the shift from a suburban, small stadium to an urban state of the art stadium. The new stadium can be viewed on this link.  

Just 5 years ago we were driving up (you pretty much have to drive) to the NSC stadium to watch matches with 1500 people. In two years, the team hopes that we'll be taking public transit to watch with 22,000 of our closest friends.

CC: What was the best season in the club's history?

FFO: 2011. The team (then called the NSC Minnesota Stars) was owner-less, being propped up by the league. Players were on tiny wages and there were no flair players out there. We scraped into the playoffs and then went on an absolute tear. As we knocked off opponent after opponent a song came from the stands: "The team that nobody wanted, the team that nobody wanted, the team that nobody wanted... is going to win the cup!" And they did. On a rainy day in South Florida, the Stars defeated Fort Lauderdale. I get goosebumps just writing this. We've certainly become a much better team, more fluid, but nothing has topped the improbability of that season.

CC: You have already played and beaten a Premier League side in Swansea a couple of years back, has Minnesota Utd improved much since then?

FFO: I'd say marginally. The team is stronger over-all, but we--on paper--should be no match for a Premier League side.

CC: What is your derby match and what is the biggest away trip - how will this change when you go up to the MLS?

FFO: Our closest away trip is currently 600 miles. To put that into perspective, that would be like having your closest opponent be Bayern Munich. Our longest travel is 2400 miles, so for you that would be Siberia or Mali or Syria. We don't, then, have geographic derbies per se. We quite like the Indianapolis team and their fans. In MLS, we will get two rivals (still about 400 miles): Kansas City and Chicago. We've already seen the rivalry begin with Kansas City with two recent Open Cup (our FA Cup) matches against them.

CC: Who has been playing well for United this current season and is perhaps the unsung hero of the team?

FFO: Our right back, Kevin Venegas, is an attacking threat. He loves running into space and he is clever on the ball. We also have a goal-scoring machine in Christian Ramirez. Our unsung hero would be perhaps central midfielder Jeb(!) Brovsky. He's tidy and secure in his distribution.

CC: How is the team doing as a whole this season - are you playing well?

It depends on the week. We have switched between blistering possession play with goals by the buckets and completely stymied by teams parking the bus.

CC: What is head coach Carl Craig like, does he get animated, is he calm? And what formation does he like to play?

FFO: Carl Craig is – and I mean this with absolutely no hyperbole – the most interesting coach of all time. You can direct your readers here

He is a former punk rocking Geordie who uses hypnosis. No more needs to be said.

CC: Christian Ramirez has scored a lot of goals is he good enough to lead your attack in the MLS?

FFO: Christian has some amazing flair to him, but like all the players hoping to make the jump, he has some growing to do if he wants to start in MLS. He needs to be more of a physical presence and more of a gadfly for centre-backs. He's got a brilliant eye for goal, but not enough centerbacks are afraid of him.

CC: How popular is your goal keeper - Sammy Ndjock - Cameroon's international keeper?

Sammy is a bit of an enigma. He can put on a show one minute and then give up absolute howlers the next (and I mean howlers).

CC: Can United learn much from AFC Bournemouth's achievement of surviving in its first Premier League season and would it mean much for your fans to win this friendly?

FFO: I think moving up to the big leagues with unabashed attacking play and a flamboyant manager is exactly what Minnesota are hoping to do. I don't think the result will matter much but for a little pride. I will say that after we beat Swansea, Swansea then went on to tear up the EPL the next season, so Bournemouth may want to give this one to us.

CC: Which are the AFC Bournemouth you know most about and is there any in particular you are excited about watching during the game?

FFO: Emerson Hyndman is obviously of interest to us because he is a young American prospect. I'll certainly be watching more Bournemouth matches because of him. I am absolutely giddy over the prospect of heckling Artur Boruc, who may be the only goalkeeper more error-prone than Sammy Ndjock. to be honest, I recognize very few of the names on the Bournemouth roster beyond Junior Stanislas, Dan Gosling, Josh King, and Sylvain Distin (he's still alive?!). But it should be fun to watch these guys live.

CC: I sadly have to inform you Wes that Sylvain Distin was among several players released by AFC Bournemouth in May this year so he is one fellow you won't be seeing, although perhaps Minnesota United FC could consider signing him. All the other players you mention should be on duty so you are in for a treat. By the sound of your description of the Minnesota team all AFCB eyes will be on your manager and the keeper! At least AFCB will be used to playing in a small stadium - it should be a good game. 

AFCB fans take a look at the popular FoftyFive.One website for all the latest news on the Loons as the team is known.

Club news
Congratulations to Andrew Surman who becomes AFCB's vice captain in 2016/17

England job would ruin Eddie - Chris Sutton on BBC Five Live

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