Loons showcase what can be for the sport, franchise as they both grow
Bill McGuire fitted his silver can of Surly beer into the cupholder affixed to the seat in front of him. This is not good, he said.
McGuire leaned back in his seat, 26 rows up from the field at TCF Bank Stadium, and watched Vancouver advance on the Minnesota United defense. This, he said again, is not good.
It was a hot and sunny Saturday afternoon, at least by Minnesota standards. The Loons were facing a higher-ranked and more-healthy Vancouver team that appeared to be bigger, stronger and faster than the home squad. When the Loons lost forward Mason Toye to a red card early in the second half with the score still nil-nil, McGuires grumbles increased.
The Loons were without 11 players, including three key regulars, because of injuries, and the heat would cause cramping and substitutions in the second half.
McGuire, the Loons owner, sounded like your average, worried, fan, and he sat among the fans, posing for selfies and leaning left or right, depending on which way he needed the ball to bend.
On Thursday, the Loons offered a tour of their new stadium, Allianz Field. Two days later, McGuire pondered the future while engrossed in the present.
The farthest seat from the pitch in the new stadium will be as close are we are now, he said. There will be only good views.
Saturday, McGuire was concerned with more than aesthetics. The Whitecaps outshot the Loons 19-4 causing him to twist in his seat.
Although born in New York, McGuire grew up in League City, Texas, and attended the University of Texas. He found himself in a quintessential place in red-meat American sports where Longhorns football was king, rivaled only by the Dallas Cowboys.
He didnt become a soccer fan until about four years ago, when he became involved with the Loons. Saturday, he rose early to watch a few international matches before leaving for the stadium.
First, it was about, If were going to really be a community of the future, how can we have all of this history of soccer and let our pro team go? McGuire said. For so long, America was all about, and still is to a degree, If we didnt invent it or if were not the best in the world at it, then it must not be any good. So we play all these games that are uniquely American or that nobody else in the world plays.
For all sorts of reasons, ranging from diversity to interest in the sport and how good the sport really is when you see it live, you have this sport growing up and people are plugged into it. So we just have to give them an opportunity to be a part of it and participate in it and it will take care of itself, to a degree.
McGuire shook his head at fans who constantly walked up and down the stairs during play. This isnt a typical American sport, he said. So many of them are boring and take so long. This is two 45-minute halves. You should be able to concentrate.
In the 60th minute, the Loons Miguel Ibarra scored the games only goal, blasting a rightfooted shot off the goalie, then hustling after the rebound and tucking it in with his left foot.
At the 90-minute mark, officials announced there would be six minutes of injury time. Thats crap, McGuire said.
His worries were unfounded. The Loons held on to win, and Oasis blared over the sound system. I never knew so many people knew the words to Wonderwall, McGuire said.
Loons coach Adrian Heath walked from corner to corner of the stadium, pumping his fists. The Loons fan clubs chanted and sang. When the sound system went silent, the fans continued singing.
Thats what is so different about soccer fans, McGuire said. Total spontaneity. Look at this scene.
Man down, undermanned, playing a higher-ranked team. Big win. Big win for the team and for all of these fans.
Jim Souhans podcast can be heard at MNSPN.com. On Twitter: @SouhanStrib E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org