Straight across the field from the Dark Clouds supporters’ section, the Loony Bin let visiting LA Galaxy striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic know that Minnesota fans weren’t filling the stadium for him.
“Hey, Zlatan. We’re not here for you! Hey, Zlatan. We’re not here for you!”
The cheer came strong and steady each time the forward got too close to Minnesota United’s goal.
This small section of fans wearing loon hats always chants breathlessly at opposing players.
But this time was different. United was saying goodbye to TCF Bank Stadium, and Zlatan, adhering to his image as a god-like figure among mortals, had some smack talk about why TCF was attracting over twice as many fans as it usually averages for United games.
He said the 50,000-plus fans were there for him.
“I think he’s got it all wrong,” fan Nathan Willar said at halftime. “He doesn’t know Minnesota. Soccer goes deep here. We have many, many decades of soccer culture, so we’re coming out to support our team.”
Fellow Loony Bin member Anthony Shelton agreed, but said people should be honest: there is an interest in a world soccer superstar like Zlatan.
“That’s typical Zlatan, right?” Shelton said. “I don’t think he’s entirely wrong; I think there are some people who showed up here to see him. But it’s pretty clear that most of the people who showed up for this game are here for the team, which is awesome.”
The Loony Bin members have all joined the United fandom fairly recently. When the team moved from Blaine to TCF, it meant they were able to go to more games and become a constant pillar of support.
They know that United hasn’t had an illustrious start to its Major League Soccer career, but they’re not as negative as some vocal Twitter users who are constantly tweeting about how they want manager Adrian Heath gone.
“To be honest, I think I had lower expectations than maybe I should have, or what people sort of thought,” Shelton admitted. “We kept quite a few players from an NASL roster. We still haven’t been the worst team in the league in either of the two years, so I don’t know what people’s expectations were.”
Shelton also acknowledged that United has signed some players – some internationals, even – but also suffered from injuries. It’s hard for any team to lose its key players.
For Willar, it’s been a roller coaster at times.
“The team surprised me against teams we should have lost to,” he said. “We’ve lost to teams we probably should have beaten. We’ve had our ups and downs. We continue to be a growing team. We’re here thick and thin, win or lose, snow, rain, or sun. That’s kind of what Minnesota fans are about.”
And more than anything, it’s about being there for players on the pitch, and the fans in the stands.
“It’s a community game and it brings community together,” Willar said. “This team embodies that.”
“There’s 20,000 people here,” fellow Loony Bin member Mike Breiling said. “They’re chanting the entire time. Their scarves are up for every corner. There are smiles on fans every single time. It’s one of those things – we get to be a part of it.
“We’re spoiled,” he continued. “We sit right behind the net, so we get to see the goal go in before anybody else. And it’s always my favorite thing in the world to be five feet in front of it.”
In the new stadium, the Loony Bin will be just behind the right side of goal instead of the left. They won’t occupy the very first row anymore, but the second and third rows, which still keeps them close to the action.
A soccer specific stadium is something they really can’t wait to heckle opposing ‘keepers in.
“It’s going to be a lot of fun having a specifically designed stadium, and having a full stadium, instead of it being a way too big of a space and having it look half empty,” Shelton said. “It will be nice to have a good, actual atmosphere.”
It is apparent that the group of loon hats will be a fixture at United games for the foreseeable future.
Like marriage, it is until death do us part, for Breiling.
“I plan to be a season ticket holder for the rest of my life. I’m here to be a part of the team and a part of the fans as well.”
FiftyFive.One is now on Patreon. Do you like the independent coverage of soccer news from Minnesota and beyond that FiftyFive.One offers? Please consider becoming a patron.