“We stayed until close and he asked me to sing some of the supporters’ songs,” said True North Elite co-founder Nicholas Bisbee, remembering the chance he had to meet Head Coach Adrian Heath at an event before the start of the season. “I agreed immediately, and at 1:30 a.m. I was belting Loons songs on the stairs of the Local. As we were leaving, he turned to me and he said, ‘Long after me and all the players we sign are gone, you will be what endures. You lot are the soul of this club. Are you up for this?’”
It’s not like Bisbee or any of the other supporters in True North Elite, the Dark Clouds or any other supporters group needed galvanizing prior to the season. This was, after all, the realization of a dream the club’s diehard supporters had been after for years: the ascension of Minnesota United to the top division of U.S. soccer. But Bisbee and the other supporters took those words to heart as they showed up for every home match — and even away matches.
Members of True North Elite and the Dark Clouds — along with a multitude of other fans — traveled often this season, bringing an unmatched level of energy with them each and every time.
Early in the season, supporters filled a section at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park to watch the Loons take on the Colorado Rapids. Nachiket Karnik of the Dark Clouds was there and counts the experience of cheering on his team on the road as one of his favorite memories of the season.
“It was my first MLS away trip,” Karnik said. “Our small away section was louder than the home supporters. The reward was seeing the team score its first MLS point, with the decisive goal coming right in front of us.”
As sweet as that first point on the road was, getting a full three proved more elusive for the team. But on August 26, over 250 supporters who traveled with the club to Chicago got the chance to celebrate, out-cheering the home crowd in a 2-1 win featuring a brace from Abu Danladi.
“Meeting up with the front office and coaching staff, and celebrating the win after out-singing their whole stadium was unbelievable,” Bisbee said. “The stuff of dreams!”
There was perhaps no win more significant for fans, though, than when MNUFC traveled to Atlanta on October 3 and came away with a measure of revenge against the team that hung a 6-1 loss on the Loons in their Snow Opener at TCF Bank Stadium. When Kevin Molino banged a header into the back of the net in stoppage time for a 3-2 win, it silenced Mercedes-Benz Stadium, even as the Loons went wild.
“We weren’t sure how the team would do given the loss to Atlanta in the home opener,” said Karnik, who traveled for the match. “The boys played hard, and gave us hope as the game went on. Adrian Heath’s attacking subs increased our anticipation, and then Molino scored the last minute goal below where we were. I was jumping up and down, hugging everyone around me. I was so excited that I had to be careful not to accidentally fall off the balcony in front of me.”
But even the best wins on the road couldn’t compare to the atmosphere the fans generated at TCF Bank Stadium as an entire community came together to produce something truly special. New fans learned traditions carried over from the club’s NASL days and still more new ones began as fans marched from the Surly Destination Brewery to the stadium through clouds of blue smoke. The particulars might change as the seasons pass and the team moves to its new home, Allianz Field, in St. Paul. But the traditions will be passed down, Bisbee is certain.
“Having the highest level of domestic soccer here in The North — our home — is indescribable,” Bisbee said. “Being such a big part of this isn’t something I really saw coming, but it’s such a huge part of my life, and I wouldn’t want things any other way. Having a legacy to pass down to my kids is so important to me. Minnesota United is such an important part of that.”
Beyond the traditions though, match days are simply days of coming together with others. Wins, losses, draws — they’re all settings for moments of community.
“I forget which win it was, but after one summer game, I was on a light rail train car packed to capacity with MNUFC fans,” said Karnik. “I started a few chants, and the whole train car was bouncing with enthusiasm about the team. I don’t think I’ve ever experienced anything quite like it before. In that moment, 100 strangers coalesced together as one exuberant, passionate whole. It was a beautiful thing. It’s truly something else to be heading to a game and seeing thousands of fans filling the trains and roads leading up to the stadium. It’s like the whole city is united around supporting Minnesota United.”