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Minnesota United has settled into temporary home, local traditions

Minnesota United supporters march prior to the game against Atlanta United outside of TCF Bank Stadium in Minneapolis on Sunday, March 12, 2017. Brace Hemmelgarn / USA TODAY Sports1 / 2
Minnesota United goalie Bobby Shuttleworth (33) checks his nose in the second half against the Sporting Kansas City at TCF Bank Stadium in Minneapolis on May 7, 2017. Brad Rempel / USA TODAY Sports2 / 2

MINNEAPOLIS — Minnesota United's Christian Ramirez and Brent Kallman had some of their best home-game memories when they weren't playing.

On a warm Aug. 5, Ramirez had a hood covering his head to try and remain inconspicuous while sitting among fans when the Loons played the Seattle Sounders at TCF Bank Stadium. Out with a hamstring injury, the California native and Minnesota's leading scorer watched as the energy from the diehard supporters groups — the Dark Clouds and True North Elite — built behind the east goal during a 4-0 rout by the defending MLS Cup champions.

Kallman, sidelined with a groin injury, sat in a suite during the D.C. United game on July 29. In second half of the Loons' 4-0 blowout win, Kallman heard fans chant "M-N-U-F-C!" louder and louder for what felt like 10 minutes.

"All the sound was projecting up, and I remember getting goosebumps," Kallman said. "I wasn't even playing."

Kallman and Ramirez will likely take the field when the Loons play Sporting Kansas City in their final home game of their debut Major League Soccer season Saturday night. The Loons are 10-16-6 and a near certainty to miss the playoffs, but they're expected to have their fourth straight "sellout" of 22,000-plus in the lower bowl in their temporary home.

Kallman said was concerned about how MLS would translate in the University of Minnesota's college football venue while the soccer-specific Allianz Field is being constructed in St. Paul's Midway for the 2019 season.

"But it's great. The fans do a really good job every week to make it a difficult place for other teams to come in and play," the Woodbury, Minnesota, native said. "For me, I just take a little bit more pride in it than maybe some of the guys because I really want it to be a success."

Here are three of the most memorable home games this season:

'Snow opener'

For the home opener against fellow expansion franchise Atlanta United on March 12, Bruce McGuire, one of the founders of the Dark Clouds, was on the field to do the ceremonial coin toss during a snow storm. He turned to MLS Commissioner Don Garber and his staff and said he had hoped for snow when the schedule was released in January.

"They laughed, but it wasn't that laugh of humor; it was that laugh of, 'You're a lunatic,'" McGuire said.

What happened next was a "nightmare," according to coach Adrian Heath. His team was trounced 6-1 before a record crowd 35,043 and an audience on national TV.

Defender Jerome Thiesson had arrived from Switzerland days earlier and was quickly inserted into the starting lineup.

"After the game, there was no booing like I'd expect from my experience back in Switzerland — which we would have even deserved," Thiesson said. "They were sticking with us."

'Wonderwall' win

Nicholas Bisbee, a founder of True North Elite, was prepared to bust into Oasis' hit song "Wonderwall" with his diehard comrades whenever the Loons won their first game. United went 0-3-1 in the first month, scoring six goals and allowing 18.

When the calendar turned to April, the Loons treated a modest home crowd to its first victory, 4-2 over Salt Lake.

"The first time singing 'Wonderwall.' That was incredible," Bisbee said.

United's predecessor, the Minnesota Stars, began singing the song during their run to the lower-level North American Soccer League title in 2011. They kept it alive during its rebranding to United and sang an a cappella version during the club's final home game at the National Sports Center in Blaine last October.

The Loons have sung the alt-rock song seven times, with a 7-6-3 record at home this year.

"I didn't know that was a thing," United goalkeeper Bobby Shuttlworth said. "That is one of the reasons why the first game sticks out. We were obviously excited to win the game and hearing that. It's so loud. It was pretty special."

United players have made it a tradition to go into the east end, link arms and bow like stage actors after a theater production. Heath will come over, clapping above his head to the crowd, adding a few emphatic fist pumps.

Big win

Sporting Kansas City came to TCF Bank Stadium on May 7 with one loss in nine games.

United didn't back down to the top team in the Western Conference in a game that included a card-filled scuffle. Shuttleworth broke his nose but he stayed in goal.

"I just told them to jam some stuff in there and just get on with it," said Shuttleworth, who finished with seven saves.

Rookie Abu Danladi scored his first MLS goal, and Ramirez netted one of his 14 this season.

Sporting Kansas City was projected as regional rival for the Loons, and May's game helped stir up that pot, but K.C. showed the Loons have a ways to go to with consecutive 3-0 and 4-0 beatdowns in Kansas in June.

"People want to say that it is a manufactured rivalry, but the fact is that familiarity breads contempt," Bisbee said.

The Loons have won three of its last four games — including two on the road — their best stretch this season.

"I'm hoping to continue it," Heath said with two road games remaining after Saturday.

Players singing "Wonderwall" after a win on "Fan Appreciation Day" would help meet Heath's goal.

The Pioneer Press is a Forum News Service media partner.

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