Sunday afternoon the season came to an end for Minnesota United as it lost in the NASL semifinal 2-1 to the Ottawa Fury. It was a tough loss as Minnesota United (the Loons) never really looked in control. This wasn’t a match decided by referee calls/no-calls or field/weather conditions, rather this was a match where the best team won. Unfortunately, that team wasn’t the one I supported. It stings seeing your team play below its ability. Yet even though no Loons supporter is happy about the team losing out in the league semifinal for the second year in a row, it’s been a good season.
It’s be too easy to pout and sulk about the season ending without winning the championship. What I’d rather like to focus on is just how much fun I had following and backing the team this year.
Loving the Players & the Game
When my wife was offered a tenured position, we drove eight hours to check out the town and do our best to find a place to live. Finding a rental in rural Kentucky that’s not some kind of white trash shack is nearly impossible. But we did it; we found a house near campus that is entirely adequate.
After finding a home, we drove up to Indianapolis to watch Minnesota United play Indy Eleven. That game was a great time. Even though my wife and I were a third of an away supporters section of roughly six people, it was great to talk to people and cheer as Indy fans silently glared at us. The icing on the cake was getting to get some photos with players and coaches.
I’ve seen some great moments in Minnesota soccer over the last few years, but seeing just how giddy with joy my wife was meeting everyone was a personal best. It really bummed us out when were unable to drive up to see Minnesota play in Indy in the Fall because several supporters from Minnesota were actually making the drive down. Folks we had gotten to know via Twitter and would have loved to have seen in real life. But we’ll make a Loons tailgate next season in the Indy parking lot and it will be epic.
This was the game that I also decided that Kalif Alhassan was my favorite player this season. The former Major League Soccer hot prospect came to Minnesota this season as a very promising signing ahead of the team’s eventual move to MLS (scheduled for somewhere around 2017).
When he began the season, Alhassan was often deployed in the center of the midfield as a kind of deep lying playmaker who would often be charged with moving to a more advanced position from time to time. But Alhassan really came into his own when he was able to move out to his nature wing position. It was there that he got hot and found his form. In fact, he was nominated for Goal of the Year.
I have no one favorite player on Minnesota. I love fullbacks, and the Loons have two of the best fullbacks in the nation (leftback Justin Davis and rightback Kevin Venegas). Forward Christian Ramirez is a delight to watch and central midfielder Greg Jordan has become one of the players I think could really bloom into a force (he reminds me of Darren Fletcher who was one of my favorite Manchester United players).
I’ve mentioned in other posts, I’ve been lucky to get to write for Midfield Press (@) this season. Rather than cover just one team, I was given the opportunity to write opinion pieces, analysis, and previews and postmatch reports on all the teams in the league (although far too many on the San Antonio Scorpions). I enjoyed the chance to get to become more familiar with the other teams in the league and do my part to help other fans do so as well. I like to think we did a pretty good job in our first season in existence. I don’t know if I’ll keep writing, but sites like Midfield Press (and Reckless Challenge) are necessary as independent voices are too often quashed in US soccer.
I’ve got to thank Nachiket Karnik (@) for bringing me into Midfield Press. My fellow writers there have been just great to banter with as well as talk seriously about the game. Another great moment from this season was getting to meet some Detroit City folks. Dion Degennaro (@) and his partner Jackie (@ ) came up to see Minnesota United’s reserves host Detroit City. The day before that match, they took in senior club’s game. Dion is a fabulous photographer, and he was able to get some rather great pics. Hanging out with them after the game was pleasant and made me long to meet more of the epically cool Detroit City people I’ve gotten to know on Twitter.
There are too many folks to name who have just been aces this season. I’m hoping to continue to get to know them more & see more games next season. So while I began Sunday happy and ended it sullen,
I’m certain that this off-season will be active and interesting.