One for the Books

Wow. What a season. After last season’s struggles and middling-at-best results, MNUFC came out of the gate blazing this year. Thinking back, it’s amazing this is still the season I started by holding my head wondering what was going to happen, with Campos down for the count and no clear goal-scorer in the lineup.

Wow. Who could predict the emergence of Christian Ramirez? Who could predict the superb play by Miguel Ibarra? This season had everything, from chipped goals and bicycle kicks to last-minute tackles to save goals.

And talk about history made- the first American team to train in England, the first team from Minnesota to play a British Premier League squad, the first BPL team to come to Minnesota. As an added bonus they defeated that BPL team; a team which is holding it’s own in the BPL right now.

This season was fantastic, and it was fantastic on multiple levels. Moments of joy, laughing in the press box at NSC with Bill about Calvano, Dias, and Matt Van Oekel being the only players in Minnesota’s half. Moments of agony, as last-second equalizers steal victory. Memories of Miguel Ibarra appearing for the American National Team.

And, of course, memories of sitting in NSC stadium with my lovely fiancee as Minnesota was denied a chance at the Soccer Bowl. The outrage that followed, particularly after seeing the replays of the game. And the most recent news regarding the team’s presentation to MLS.

With both Minnesota United FC and the Viking’s presentations completed, all we can do is wait, and make our opinions known. While I don’t know what will happen with MLS, and I don’t know what will happen with Minnesota’s roster this off-season, I do know a few things. I know I will be here to support the team, and I know Nick Rogers, Bill McGuire, and the rest of the Loons will be working their hardest to provide Minnesota with the soccer team they deserve.

Cheers to you, to Minnesota United, and to a great season.

MNUFC and MLS: The Logical Choice

As American fans of soccer, I think we’re all used to getting flak for our sport. The arguments range from “it’s so boring” to “but they can end in ties!” We also likely have the same dream: for American soccer to be respected on the level of Italy, Germany, England, Spain… the greats.

Let’s face it: we’re not there yet. MLS is not a perfect organization, as was put on display most recently in Jermaine Jones saga after the World Cup. There are some who argue that the NASL is a better format for teams, and is where the focus should be for long-range success for the sport in the US.

Despite these detractors, MLS is “the” league in America. In the end, that is all that matters. An MLS team being awarded to the Vikings would be a mistake for multiple reasons, as both Bill and Alex have pointed out. As a state, Minnesota likely only has the fan-base to truly support one professional soccer team. That may change in the future, but for the present, that team must be Minnesota United FC.

Beyond being the right thing to do given the history of Bill McGuire as opposed to the Vikings organization, awarding MNUFC the MLS franchise makes sense for them. With Minnesota United FC, MLS brings in a large and organized fan base. They bring in connections with the community. They bring in the fabulous PR and business staff that Minnesota United FC already employs. All these things are good for MLS: it’s less legwork the league has to do to build a brand.

Furthermore, MLS would have less work to do in terms of product; Minnesota United FC is coming off of maybe the most dominant performance in modern NASL history. They nearly swept NASL awards this season, made an impression in the US Open Cup, and are the home of the first modern NASL player to be called up to the US National Team.

Ultimately, MLS awarding their franchise to MNUFC only makes sense. Bill McGuire has shown the ability to run a competitive and successful team, and would prioritize that team. MNUFC is beloved in the area, with a  strong fan base. And it is MNUFC that is the only logical choice for MLS’s franchise in Minnesota.

Whether voicing our opinions will influence the big dogs in this fight remains to be seen, but it certainly can’t hurt. Get the word out the Minnesota United FC is our team, and we will support them wherever they are; if MLS is truly interested in establishing itself in Minnesota, they’ll know that Minnesota United FC is the way to go.

My Disjointed Thoughts

What a great year.

From the off season #PANIC to announcement of spring season friendlies in England then the mid season Mexican U21 and Swansea friendlies. The front office has kept the on field entertainment high. Of course the teams league performance was exceptional.

Missed seeing old favorite Taka in matches.  Tiago has worked his way into our hearts.

Pablo.  Wow, ACL and MCL.  Playing in last games of season.  After watching a younger version score 20 goals.  Until seeing Pablo in games, I forgot that while Christian is good, Pablo just has a calmness holding the ball and attacking that Christian doesn’t have yet.

Indy away isn’t a completely terrible drive. Their fans don’t suck.  But I will remember ‘crying dad’ for a while. I hope next year the away at Indy games are in summer break so we can leave Friday morning.

NASL live.  Such epic tire fire.  I paid, I might pay next year, but man o man that was painful.

PRO failure?  US Open cup red card, and semi final offside call.  Both sucked, but I can’t remember anything all that game changing besides those, despite all my, and other fans, grumbling.  Do they need to get better, yes.  Are they an organization that needs to go away, not at all.  They are only a few years old, and created to develop referees.  Well development we have.

Mascots – Sting.  OK.  PK Loon, what?

Media, news and more.

So Indy had crowds, Ottawa seemed to have good media coverage, Minnesota had best PR and promotion (red eye videos), and San Antonio was MLS ready.  New ownership for 3 teams (Atlanta, Fort Lauderdale, Tampa bay) with mixed, um, results.  Skype in Atlanta anyone? Al Lang battle, won eventually, and on field lack of success in Tampa bay. And Fort Lauderdale making a deep run right after new ownership.

Of course Miguel USMNT call up, while there are several national team members in NASL this one is different.  World cup qualified team big. Changes our team, changes the league.  How and for how long I don’t know.  I do know Miguel’s success is big deal, very big.

That’s all I have as I reflect on the season on this sleepy soccer bowl Saturday morning.  While I sit tonight in my warm house watching the soccer bowl, I still will wish I was freezing my buns off in Blaine.

Why do I care which billionaire gets an MLS team? Because Minnesota United actually gets it

In the discussion of which potential Minnesota MLS franchise bid to support, every once in a while I chuckle thinking about what we as fans are actually doing. In a way, we are arguing over which billionaire we want to see make money.

It’s funny to think that I care whether Ziggy Wilf or Bill McGuire, both worth well over a billion dollars, can make a couple million more a year owning a local MLS soccer team.

Then I think about what it was like 2 years ago. Minnesota had lost in the NASL finals, and for many of the local fans we thought it was over for pro soccer in Minnesota.

One of these two billionaires stepped in and bought the team. And not only did Bill McGuire buy the team, he has invested likely tens of millions of dollars over the last two years into the team already in terms of salaries, infrastructure and marketing.

The Wilfs were asked to purchase the team by soccer fans, and nothing happened. We honestly didn’t hear anything from the Vikings about a possible soccer team until Minnesota United showed how to engage the twin cities community about a local soccer team.

Then I think to two weeks ago. Sitting in the press conference room with Manny Lagos as he spoke about the loss to Fort Lauderdale. As every front office and team employee around me acted professionally, but the pain of the loss was evident on their faces.

I want the team that I support, that I follow, that I discuss for way too many hours on Twitter and Reddit to have the same commitment that I do. I see that everyday in Minnesota United FC from the owner on down to the ticket rep.

I don’t want my number one team to be an owner’s number two concern.

I want my soccer team to be the team uniting the soccer community, not usurping it. I started the Loon Call because I love Minnesota soccer and the passion of the players, the team and the fans. I can’t imagine a better steward of that passion than Minnesota United FC. They represent so well all that Minnesota soccer has stood for and meant for myself and for so many other people.

So even though this whole MLS business could be boiled down a couple of billionaires fighting over a few million more, for myself and so many others it means so much more.

To those making the decisions about MLS, please think about what sort of team you want in the league. They both have the money to purchase a team. So it comes down to which team should join, a team that is looking to fill up dates on a calendar or a team that has proven that it can match the passion of its fans?

For me, the answer seems obvious.

#MNUFC4MLS

Mourning the End

The 2014-2015 season was overall one of the best I’ve gotten to experience as a sports fan. Sure, there was the heartbreaking loss to end the season. But even more than than the loss in the semi-finals, my sadness is linked to the fact that the season is over.

I have to mourn the end of a season that started off with Minnesota being the first North American team to train at St. George’s Park in England. A season that saw Minnesota dominate the Spring on their way to the Spring Championship. A team that saw a way to beat a strong Mexico U-21 side and EPL team Swansea City. A Front Office that got Minnesota United into the double header at the Bank. A player in Miguel Ibarra who was called up (twice!) to the US Men’s National Team.

I’m also going to mourn getting to watch one of the strongest squads ever assembled in Minnesota pro soccer history. If not for a red card, we might be talking about a deep run in the US Open Cup as well. Regardless of what I might like to see, some of the players who have been a key part of Minnesota United soccer will be leaving this off season, just like every year. Off to try their luck on a different team, or a different league or maybe in a different profession altogether.

Soccer is growing and getting bigger in Minnesota, and it’s unclear exactly what the future holds. For now, I’ll focus on how Minnesota United FC gave me one of the greatest seasons of soccer I’ve had the opportunity to watch in person. So thank you Minnesota United, and thank you to all the fans and Dark Clouds who have made Minnesota games the event I look forward to every week.

So that’s ultimately what I’ll mourn. A chance to come together to see a team we all love compete to be the best they can be.

Latest Two United Fans Podcast includes our own Bill MK discussing semi-final loss

It’s amazing to have the opportunity to come on Two United Fans and discuss the semi-final loss. Would have been even better to come on and discuss a win, but that wasn’t in the cards for the Loons.

They were very gracious hosts and I had a great time talking soccer and Minnesota United with Natch and Kyle. If you aren’t currently watching their show, you should be.

Manny Lagos is the NASL coach of the year for 2014

It’s been a near sweep for Minnesota United FC in the individual season awards with Manny Lagos winning the Golden Whistle Coach of the Year award for the 2014 NASL season.

While there were other contenders this season in the NASL, with Minnesota United earning 55 points, a modern NASL record and Manny’s ability to get the most out of his disparate parts earned Manny Lagos a well deserved recognition.

Practically the face of Minnesota soccer for the past 5 years, this season he continued to show class and leadership, helping Minnesota to one of the greatest overall season’s in Minnesota soccer history.

Thanks to Jeremy @ digitalgopher.net for giving us permission to use his photographs. 

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