Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Minnesota United

Minnesota United was one of the original NASL franchises that survived the rough period for the league. The Loons were trying to make the jump to the MLS before the league chose San Antonio, and the MLS stopped expansion at 24. The decisive factor was that Minnesota couldn’t get a deal done for a new stadium. They continued playing at the National Sports Center in Blaine, but continued their search in the Twin Cities. Their focus was building up the reserves in the meantime. The team hired a Dutch manager to put at the helm trying to end their 3 season playoff drought in 2016. He brought a former player striker from a 2nd division Dutch side to build around. Complemented by some MLS players, the team missed the playoffs by 2 points to the Tampa Bay Rowdies, the Soccer Bowl champs that year. Their first home grown player came the next season, a goalkeeper from St. Cloud that made an immediate difference. The team regressed in play, due to a flimsy defense. He threatened to leave the club if there wasn’t a focus on defense in the offseason. The club sniped a free agent center defender from Atlanta, with another youth LB coming up, the team improved slightly. Before the 2018 season, the team found a location in St. Paul for an 18,000 seat stadium, paid for by a large sponsorship deal with 3M, donations from the fans, and from the front office. The stadium was much bigger than the stadium in Blaine, so getting more fans was a priority. The team did more in the community, and ran shuttles to the National Sports Complex from the cities. This increased traffic to the site, and the club grew slightly. The stadium deal turned some heads and 10,000 people were showing up every game in Blaine. The first season was in 2020, and to celebrate, United went out and bought a few good players. A Spanish midfielder was brought in, and an attacking mid from the Charleston Battery was brought up. A few more youth products came in to help. They were selected as the favorite to win the cup. A few mediocre months led to the team sneaking into the playoffs, only to be defeated by Indy in the first round. The team was selling 12,000 tickets a game, which was due to going up against the Twins on a game by game basis. The manager was on a hot seat to produce results in 2021. After a scouting mission, a Ligue 2 midfielder from Cameroon was lured away and offered a starting spot in the Twin Cities. That was the missing piece in the puzzle. The team finished 15 games clear of .500, and coasted to the first seed in the NASL playoffs.The team went on to lift the Soccer Bowl trophy, facing little adversity. The home grown goalkeeper was the league MVP, shutting down almost everyone. He was bought by DC United, leaving a hole in the back. An USL player was brought in as relief. The Loons never experienced the same kind of season. Everything was perfect in 2021, but have fluctuated for the most part. The loyal fans of the Twin Cities have sold out 3M Park the last 5 seasons. The focus has been mostly on youth, to cut down salary, sell the state on pro soccer, and to use the great facility in Blaine to bring up players. An English striker was brought in for the 2030 season, hoping to be the stud in front for United. They are behind about 8 teams in the promotion predictions, but anything is possible. I wanted a plaid team in here somewhere. My idea was to have an all light blue look, but the plaid/no plaid looked weird. From there, I sort of based them off that other decent United club in the UK. The clash kit is pretty similar to the current duds.

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