Minnesota United may not be playing at home to start their inaugural MLS season, but some fans aren’t waiting around to see their team in action.
On Friday, the Loons will travel to Portland to pop the champagne cork on the start of the 2017 season (9:30 pm ET | FS1, MLS LIVE). Smashing the remnants of the bottle will be over 150 traveling Minnesota United supporters who have been eagerly anticipating their inaugural run in MLS.
The Dark Clouds, the largest and oldest supporters group for the team, has organized a group of 153 supporters making the 1,400-mile journey for the team’s MLS debut. Ben Krouse-Gagne, who has been a Dark Cloud since 2011, volunteered to organize the trip. That includes meeting up with the Timbers Army at its season opener party the night before the match.
For Krouse-Gagne, the whiplash of a 36-hour trip to Portland is worth it: “I can’t really miss this moment for the team.”
He became a then-NSC Minnesota Stars fan the year Portland made its jump to MLS in 2011. Even though he missed the overlapping years where Minnesota and Portland developed a rivalry, he’s ready to revive it.
“We have that history between us and we’re bringing it back,” he said.
One supporter who has been champing at the bit for this day to come is Bruce McGuire, one of the Dark Clouds founders who will be making the trek to Portland.
“The past decade saw Minnesota lose all its long-time rivals,” he says. “So meeting up with Portland in a meaningful game is something I have hoped for and dreamed of happening for several years. The game of soccer is all about those long time match-ups with other great teams and this brings it back.”
The Dark Clouds have traveled before, but in previous years, their closest geographic rivals have been nine hours away in Indianapolis. On rare occasions, a US Open Cup match-up allowed for supporters to travel down to Kansas City, most recently in 2014. The supporters are already planning out trips to Colorado, Chicago, and Kansas City this season.
Jeffrey Yaeger previously traveled with the Dark Clouds on one of those arduous away-day bus rides to play Indy 11, but sees this trip for the MLS curtain-raiser as a big step up.
“It’s definitely more daunting,” he says, “We’re about 150 people marching into the Timbers Army’s home for their home opener.”
He and his wife, Katie, are traveling for the first time away from their four-month old son, but they, too, knew they couldn’t miss this chance: “We want to be able to say we were there, to be part of something new.”
The Dark Clouds will be doing their own march to the match after pre-gaming at Yurs Bar. They plan on implementing their “Drink-90-Drink” approach to the Portland Fans, where, as Krouse-Gagne explains, “before and after the match you share drinks with the other supporters, but during the match you’re enemies.”