Change is difficult. Change is uncomfortable. Change can be ugly. But sometimes change is necessary. I wrote that lede for an article I wrote for The Daily Gopher a couple months ago, but I feel it is also a perfect lede for this post. The times, they are a changing friends and we can either adapt with the changes or we can be left behind. Either way, it’s too late to turn back and MNUFC are moving forward with or without you.
This past Sunday, MNUFC played their first ever home MLS game at their temporary home, TCF Bank Stadium, in front of 35,043 hearty Minnesotan’s. In what can only be described as fitting, the game was played in a blizzard. Personally, I had an amazing experience. Ten, fifteen, twenty years from now when people talk about the craziness of that game, I can pull my ticket stub out and say I was there. It’s an experience I will never forget. Unfortunately, I have been hearing a lot of complaints about the experience.
The biggest complaints I keep hearing are, The Bank isn’t a soccer stadium, the food and drinks are too expensive, the security lines are too long, there are too many people, the apparel is too expensive, it’s too corporate feeling, why isn’t this or that player still with the team and why can’t we just bring this or that player back. However, the biggest complaint I keep hearing is, it just wasn’t the same as it was. I agree, it wasn’t the same, but that doesn’t mean it was bad. Personally, I can’t wait to see how big this can get.
Look, I get it, part of the draw of club in years past was the intimacy. We were right there. It felt like we were part of the club. Heck, I didn’t even know where my seats were at Nessie, because I would watch games at the drink rail two feet from the baseline. I don’t know how many soccer balls I had to duck out of the way of I was so close, it was awesome. But let’s be honest, NSC is a glorified high school stadium. I don’t mean any disrespect towards NSC, especially with all they have done to save the team, but that complex wasn’t built to hold a professional team. There is a reason they had to bring in porta-potty’s and food trucks. Yes, that was part of the charm, but let’s not act like it was the Taj Mahal.
The Bank may not be a soccer stadium, but it is only a temporary home until we move into Cloud City (editors note: or Smallianz, if Cloud City isn't your preferred nickname). Until then, let’s make it our home. Let’s make it one of the toughest places to play in MLS. Force the team to open the upper deck by packing that building. We may not be right on top of the field, but that doesn’t mean we still can’t sing, dance and be crazy. Who says we can’t fill all 55,000 seats? Sure, some of the sight lines might not be the greatest for soccer, but I can think of a few worse places to watch a game here in town. Another thing to keep in mind, this was the first time a lot of the fans in attendance had ever been to TCF Bank Stadium. As the season goes on and people become familiar with the surroundings, the smoother it will be to get around.
Let this sink in; the team that nobody wanted just drew 35,043 fans to a game...in a blizzard. Raise your hand if you ever thought you would see that day. Anyone? Anyone? One of the changes we will continue to see are new fans in the stands. Some may be soccer fans wanting to see what MLS is all about in person. Some may be casual fans curious what the buzz is about. Some may have never watched a soccer game in their life. No matter what, welcome them with open arms. Make everyone feel welcome and make sure to watch the language in front of the kids. Encourage the new fans to join in the singing and dancing. Help them understand the game if they’ve never watched soccer before. But most importantly make them feel Forever United.
For those of you who are feeling uncomfortable with the changes taking place, don’t run from the changes, embrace them. The team that nobody wanted just had a game televised around the world. How awesome is that? How awesome was it to hear 35,000 chanting MNUFC? Now imagine 55,000 if we pack The Bank. I get chills thinking about it. Never mind the score, how unbelievably surreal was it to be the main focus of soccer talk around the country for the spectacle we all just took part in? Think that would have been the case if they were still playing in the NASL and at Nessie?
Ultimately for those feeling uncomfortable with the changes taking place, I would like you to keep two things in the back of your mind the next time you start longing for the days of yore.
1) Who would you rather be right now? MNUFC playing in a rapidly growing league, both in quality and teams, at a temporary home for two years before playing in a $200 million state of the art soccer specific stadium? Or the New York Cosmos playing in a league on the verge of collapse without a home of their own or without plans for a home of their own?
2) But mostly remember this, if not for Dr. McGuire and his business partners investing $400 million into the team to join MLS and build a stadium, the days of United and Nessie were all but over anyway. If Dr. McGuire didn’t step up like he did, the Viking’s ownership group, Zygi and Mark Wilf, would have been awarded an MLS franchise and we would be watching soccer inside that Sandcrawler shaped aquarium instead. This market would not have been able to sustain two professional soccer teams and we all know which team would have had to cease operations.
If you choose to decide the newer version of United isn’t for you and would prefer to still find that small intimate setting to watch soccer, there are plenty of options available. Whether that be MPLS City or one of the local colleges. There is nothing wrong with doing that, but I hope you choose to support all of the above.
I know change can be scary, but don’t fear the changes taking place within MNUFC. Think of the possibilities of what may be. One thing for certain that hasn’t and never will change, is the fact we are United, never divided!