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Good things, and bad, come in threes for MNUFC

A three-match win streak buoys the Loons’ playoff hopes, but problems off the pitch have tempered the excitement

Supporters in the Wonderwall watch on as Emanuel Reynoso steps up for a penalty kick against RSL on Saturday, July 3.
Seth Steffenhagen/Steffenhagen P

What is soccer if not a game of give and take, a rollercoaster of emotions? Loyal, longtime supporters of Minnesota United FC are experiencing the full range of feelings this summer. When a depleted but defiant squad gutted out a three-match win streak, fans cheered for what could be a light at the end of the playoff picture tunnel. But they also demanded more from the front office in a tumultuous time and their cries are going unheeded.

Good things come in threes

While this isn’t the first three-match win streak MNUFC has put together as a middling MLS club, this streak feels different. For one, two of them came on the road. A 3-2 win at LA Galaxy, despite blowing a 3-0 lead late, was an unexpected treat.

The 3-2 win at home against Real Salt Lake was also a tough one to swallow, yet another 3-0 lead lost late by a squad that’s been put through the wringer. The positive spin was that the squad had scored six goals in two games, with the help of a resurgence by Emanuel Reynoso. This resurgence seemed to shore up the confidence of the rest of the squad, especially the attack, leading to the win away in Vancouver.

The Loons regretted a lackluster first half when Lucas Cavallini opened the scoring in the 66’. But Kemar Lawrence, with an assist from DJ Taylor, sparked some hope, equalizing in the 71’. A beautiful strike by Luis Amarilla in the 84’ was the breakthrough goal, giving the Loons a rare 2-1 lead late in the game.

Franco Fragapane secured the result with a third goal in the 88’ (Dayne St Clair claiming the rare goalkeeper assist). While it’s not the first time MNUFC has scored three goals after trailing to win, it marks a turn-around in the squad’s effort this season. Finally, everything they have worked on in training is visible to fans with dwindling faith in the system they’ve been asked to believe in through at least 2024.

If you thought fans would be riding that three-win high into Wednesday night’s home game, you may be wrong.

Bad things also come in threes

The club that platformed Black voices and others effected following the death of George Floyd and all that followed throughout the country may have set an expectation that the club would be among the first to speak out about issues effecting its fanbase. That was proven false following the US Supreme Court’s decision to strike down Roe v. Wade.

While individual Supporters Groups and the Wonderwall organization issued statements within days of the SCOTUS decision (announced Friday, June 24) MNUFC remained silent for so long that fans stopped tweeting at them to request an acknowledgement.

Now, nearly three weeks later, no statement or affirmation is expected, but the FO’s silence has already left its mark.

On the afternoon of July 8 (the same day as the match at Vancouver), MNUFC’s in-house broadcast crew sent a press release to local media announcing their formation of a union following years of anti-worker behavior by the club and requesting that MNUFC voluntarily recognize their union. The group alleged that MNUFC had incorrectly classified the crew as independent contractors until the Minnesota Department of Revenue got involved. The workers — typically a 24-member team that is responsible for in-stadium video screens, video board replays, music, and other elements of the fan experience — were reclassified at that time, but never received the wages and benefits provided to other club employees.

An overwhelming majority of the technicians that work on the video board crew to bring you the ultimate fan experience in professional soccer, have requested IATSE [International Association of Theatrical Stage Employees] representation. If the Minnesota United does not voluntarily recognize the employees’ request, the employees will file a petition with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) seeking an election, which will prove what we already know: these workers deserve respect, a voice, and proper working conditions.

A twitter thread, which tagged the club and CEO Shari Ballard, included a club contact list for supporters to call to voice their support and encourage the club to do so. The thread was shared by SGs and quickly gained support from local pro-union representatives and the MLS Players Association.

The club provided the following statement to E Pluribus Loonum and other local media:

“Some of our in-stadium video production employees are exploring the question of whether a union makes sense for them. Other members of this group are just learning of this possibility and want to know what it might mean for them and their families. We support our team members’ rights and will respect whatever choice they make. We are committed to being open, honest and transparent in discussing the pros and cons of unionization, respecting our values and our culture and remembering that we are friends and teammates who support one another.”

The club’s initial response to the In-House Union is another negative on its own. The union shared a letter from Shari Ballard on Twitter, along with their rebuttals to each remark. With Ballard declining to recognize the union, the group will move on with the collective bargaining process with the NLRB. In a statement made to EPL on Monday, the In-House Union reiterated their intention to move forward with the NLRB and asked that the club not interfere in the process:

On Friday, July 8th, Minnesota United CEO Shari Ballard denied our request for voluntary recognition. We are prepared to move forward with a National Labor Relations Board election. While we are disappointed in the teams decision to not voluntarily recognize our union, we are confident in prevailing in an NLRB election. We are requesting the organization take a position of neutrality throughout the election and allows the voters to vote without any anti-union messaging from their employer.

With the team set to host Sporting Kansas City at Allianz Field on Wednesday, July 13, the IHU has asked that fans show support for the unionization effort by wearing red, displaying signs of support, and sharing photos of their displays with the club and union tagged.

E Pluribus Loonum will have more on the efforts of the In-House Union as the situation develops.

Wednesday’s bout with Sporting Kansas City is set to kick off at 7 p.m. The homestand will continue Saturday, July 16, when MNUFC welcomes DC United.