June 25 was a typical Saturday at Nomad World Pub in Minneapolis. Soccer matches filled every TV screen and black and blue soccer kits crowded the bar as members of the Dark Clouds, a Minnesota United FC supporters group, downed a pint (or three) of beer before heading to the match. However, instead of the usual bus to the National Sports Center (NSC) in Blaine, the group made their way a couple blocks north to the LRT station to head to Target Field.
That night, Minnesota United FC, a member of the North American Soccer League and future Major League Soccer team, played the first ever soccer match at Target Field, the Minnesota Twins’ home field, against Club León, a club from Mexico’s Liga MX. The teams had met in a friendly competition last July, and although MN United lost this year’s match 4-2, the experience offered fans of both squads an entirely new game-day experience: a dirt infield covered with sod and a soccer pitch nestled in the outfield.
After getting off the LRT Green Line, the Dark Clouds descended on Kieran’s Pub with the True North Elite, the club’s other main supporters group. Together, flags raised high and with leaders booming out chants using megaphones, the groups marched to the match accompanied by drums.
“All year long we have been trying to find ways to get together and combine our forces,” says John Louis, a founding member of True North Elite and a Dark Clouds board member.
At games held at NSC, the groups stand nearby one another, but are always separated. Not for the Target Field match.
— Andrew (@andlovg) June 25, 2016
Here, the groups joined forces and filed into the stands located behind what is typically left field. As players warmed up on the pitch, capos (chant leaders) warmed up the supporters, rehearsing some familiar and some new chants to get the crowd ready for the match. With both groups together, and the second level of fans joining in, the chants carried through the baseball stadium.
“There’s going to have to be more coordination when we move to move to MLS and continue growing,” Louis says. “This match was a good trial run to see what might work. We’re going to be standing together in the new stadium, so now is a good time to get things figured out.”
The Dark Clouds is the MN United’s oldest and largest supporters group while the True North Elite were founded last year by fans in search of a more rowdy and rough mentality. Even so, both groups are welcoming of new members and promote inclusivity regardless of gender, race, religion, or sexuality.
“There are maybe one or two decisions that the groups disagree on, but we’re all here to support the club and be a part of a great supporters culture,” Louis says. “It’s all about community and the gameday experience. It’s knowing friends at the match and experiencing the highs and lows of the match together, while creating a great atmosphere through chants, singing, and tifo [a soccer term for organized displays, such as large banners].”
— Andrew (@andlovg) June 26, 2016
The chants range from heckling the opposition, praising the home team, harassing the refs (green team sucks, green team sucks) or even just checking if anyone wants a beer. As the opposing players were announced at Saturday’s match, supporters yelled “Who?” after every player, bar one. As soon as former MN United winger Miguel Ibarra was announced, the crowd erupted in applause, welcoming the fan favorite back home.
Many in the announced crowd of 18,505 were supporting the visiting squad, taking advantage of the rare opportunity to see their team outside of Mexico. In 2012, Joel Hering was teaching in León when he decided to attend an historic match for the city’s club. “I was at the game when León won promotion to the top tier Mexican league,” Hering says. “Been a fan of Club León ever since.”
Despite his León fandom, Hering was never a part of the supporters group down there. “If you weren’t born into it, you couldn’t just go in and join the group. I stood on the fringe to take in the passion for the game,” he says. “The atmosphere at Target Field is different. Not necessarily good or bad, just a very American soccer atmosphere.”
When asked if he would be checking out another MN United match and stand with the Dark Clouds, Hering’s answer was simple: “Definitely!”
For more photos from the match, see our post Photos: MN United FC vs. Club León at Target Field.
For more photos from the match, visit MN United FC’s gallery. To learn more about MN United FC, visit www.mnunitedfc.com. Check out the gameday experience in Blaine at their next match, July 2, against the Carolina Railhawks. For more information on the supporters groups, visit www.dark-clouds.com and www.truenorthelite.com.