Interview With Dr. Bill McGuire: “It’s Not a Soft Start”

by on 5 September 2017

Almost five years after he watched his first professional soccer match, Dr. Bill McGuire is finishing his first season as managing partner of Minnesota United FC in MLS. Dr. McGuire joins Wes in the studio to talk about that time for the FiftyFive.One Podcast. He reflects back on the decisions that led them to MLS and assesses the team’s debut in the top league.

A soft open?

A number of fans and observers have looked at Minnesota United’s entrance into MLS as something of a “soft open.” The idea is that the Loons ultimately have their eye on 2019 to make a big impact with their new stadium. Dr. McGuire chuckled a bit at this suggestion, attributing it to Alexi Lalas. “He mentioned it the other night right before we played a great game against one of the best teams in the league,” McGuire said in the podcast interview, then joking that he could “just not listen” to Lalas in the future.

We clearly missed… with a few players [who], for whatever reasons, didn’t adjust to being here or their head wasn’t quite in it or they started out poorly.
-Dr. Bill McGuire

“There’s never been a plan that says not to spend… until 2019 and frankly that would be foolish,” McGuire explained. But it comes down to, he points out, that the tight time frame and high cost of the last year (stadium and MLS expansion) meant that money for a designated player on day one was not really available.

When he evaluated how the roster-building went for Minnesota United’s inaugural MLS team, Dr. McGuire said, “we clearly missed… with a few players [who], for whatever reasons, didn’t adjust to being here or their head wasn’t quite in it or they started out poorly.”

Dr. McGuire was also critical of how the team opened its season. The Loons opened their 2017 season with one point from the first four matches, having shipped 18 goals in those matches. While he said there were a number of factors that lead to the difficult start, Dr. McGuire said there were “no excuses. We played poorly.”

The Loons’ owner, though, is bullish about his team, saying that changes have already been made a number of times to help right the ship and continue to grow. “I think we’re getting there,” he said. “It’s not a soft start, it’s a planned approach around building in a certain way.”

Grading the team

When asked to reflect back on the season so far, Dr. McGuire has been relatively impressed with what he’s seen. Off the pitch, he said, he has enjoyed the amount of buzz surrounding the team. “On the field,” though, “it’s been ups and downs.”

“The thing that I dislike most is not performing to one’s potential,” he said. So the matches that have frustrated him most are not the last minute loss away to Seattle in August, but matches when “it looked like we just didn’t show up and nobody cared.”

Among the advice he has received from other owners was the advice from AS Monaco FC’s Dmitry Rybolovlev. Rybolovlev had himself been given advice from another Russian owner: “Get used to losing.” McGuire’s lesson from that advice was: “What you want is effort.”

Cloud City

One of Dr. McGuire’s chief responsibilities has been getting a stadium built for his team and this spring construction finally began in earnest. In 2019, then, he says, “I am pretty sure we are going to have the best, if not close to the best, professional soccer field in North America… with real grass and outdoors.”

The Midway location of Allianz Field is going to be a chief asset for the Loons. Nestled right in between the Minneapolis and St. Paul downtowns, McGuire said that putting a stadium where it is easily accessible to everyone “is a great first step.” He also trumpeted the location’s centralized position on public transit, name-checking the light rail and Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) that pass right by the stadium.

Beyond location, though, McGuire said that he wants to create a canvas for the fans to build atmosphere not just during the game, but before and after. “We sunk this field 18 feet below ground on purpose,” he said, “It’s about keeping the sound in with the roof, but it’s also about the size of the building.”

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