PREVIEW: Minnesota United v Swans
19th July 2014
Garry Monk is looking for his Swans side to sign off their tour of America on a positive note when they face Minnesota United today (Saturday, 7pm local time).
The Swans take on the NASL side at the National Sports Center Stadium looking to build on the midweek draw with Mexican side Chivas Guadalajara, which was the first game of the tour.
Monk's side will fly home on Sunday after spending two weeks in three different locations, with the trip providing a number of benefits.
And the Swans boss wants to see a positive finish from his squad.
"As a club we have taken a lot of positives from this tour," said Monk. "We spent a week in Chicago and then moved up to Milwaukee to prepare further for the Chivas game.
"The players have worked - very hard. They have bonded further with the new players and young lads on the trip, and we gained a lot from the game against Chivas on Wednesday.
"The players now need to get more minutes under their belts and this game will help them do that on top of improving match sharpness.
"I have got the response from them that I have wanted. Their attitudes have been excellent, and now I want them to finish off the tour in the right way."
Minnesota currently play in the North American Soccer League, with ambitions of being part of the MLS set up.
Managed by Manny Lagos, a former American international, Minnesota are currently top of their league.
Having finished top of the Spring Season, they have made a fine start to the Fall Season with two wins from as many games.
Around 8,000 expected at the game, which will see the Swans become the first Premier League side to play in Minnesota.
And Lagos is looking forward to seeing how his side fares against the Swans.
"It a great continuation of a special summer of international soccer," he said. "Whether the games were on TV and now live here in Minnesota, it's a significant development for Minnesota soccer for us to be bringing in a team that is in the Premier League - the best league in the world.
"It's special for us to welcome Swansea City here, the first time a Premier League will ever play in Minnesota. It's a great segue from what the World Cup presented globally into the local game here in Minnesota."
The Swans are expected to give the majority of players at least 45 minutes game-time, though Monk will be without the injured Jay Fulton and Ashley Williams, who is back home due to a family matter.
And Monk expects it to be a good test for his side as they finish off their tour.
"This is an opportunity for the players to continue building towards where we want to be come the first game of the season," added Monk. "Minnesota are an ambitious club and are pushing towards being involved in the MLS, which would be great for them and the area.
"So this will be another good test for us. We are the first Premier League club to be playing in Minnesota, so it's a big incentive for them to beat us.
"That means it will be a really competitive game, which is great for both teams.
"Our game with Chivas helped us measure where we are in terms of fitness and sharpness, and this friendly with Minnesota is another opportunity to push on further in those areas.
"Our training sessions have also been demanding, but what the players have shown me is that they are ready to work hard. That is important.
"With the way we play we need to match teams physically and be at our peak fitness, whether that's when we have the ball or not."
THE NORTH AMERICAN SOCCER LEAGUE
The 2014 North American Soccer League is made up of 10 teams: Minnesota United, Tampa Bay Rowdies, Fort Lauderdale Strikers, New York Cosmos, Atlanta Silverbacks, Carolina RailHawks, Ottawa Fury, FC Edmonton, San Antonio Scorpions and Indy 11.
NASL is a split season format - broken into the Spring Season and the Fall Season
This year the Spring Season was only nine games due to the league taking a break for the World Cup.
The Fall Season is 18 games.
This year, the NASL has a new post-season format:
The winner of the Spring (Minnesota United) automatically qualifies for the post-season and will host their semi-final game.
The winner of the Fall will also host their semi-final match.
The next two best combined records (Spring + Fall) will fill in the final two post-season teams.
If Minnesota win the Fall Season, it will be the next three teams with the best overall records (Spring + Fall).
For the full history on Minnesota United, click HERE