Thunder (white) vs. Rochester in 1999 A-League Championship

As many people who have read this site over the last 18 years now, I have a connection to soccer in Minnesota. I lived there from 1993 to 1997 and from 1994 to 1997 was a season ticket holder for the Minnesota Thunder. I was one of the first people in line at their first professional game in 1994, I have gone back there for matches several times over the years, and saw them play in the USL/A-League finals in 1999 and 2003.

Thunder (white) vs. Rochester in 1999 A-League Championship

They made it all the way to the championship that year, though they were still an amateur team playing against a league of mostly professional teams. In 1999 they finally won the league title on their fourth attempt, a 2-1 win over the Rochester Raging Rhinos. They also made it to the league final in 2000 and 2003.

Timbers fans first started seeing the Thunder in 2001 and over the next nine seasons, the Timbers were 11-5-13 against the Thunder. I was able to make the trip to Minnesota five times during those years and even got to kick out the first ball at a Timbers/Thunder game in 2002 which was a great honor!  In 2010 the Thunder folded and the Minnesota Stars took their place, with the Timbers going 2-1-1 in their matches with the Stars.

Timbers (green/white) vs. Thunder in the grass bowl outside the National Sports Center in Blaine, Minnesota, August 25, 2002

The Stars were rebranded as Minnesota United in 2013 and played in the NASL2 from 2011 to 2016, winning the spring title and league title in 2014.

Chugger Adair Sighting! Timbers (green/white) vs. Thunder in the grass bowl outside the National Sports Center in Blaine, Minnesota, August 25, 2002

So I was thrilled to hear Minnesota announced on March 25, 2015 as MLS’s newest expansion team, and hoped to be able to attend their first MLS game. As fate would happen, the MLS schedule Gods dropped that first game in Portland so this game is a big event for me.

I got the chance to start my soccer writing and photography for the Thunder around 1995 so I owe a lot to that chance and that experience and have very fond memories of the Minnesota Thunder and their great fans and grat organization.  So I will be wearing both my Timbers scarf and Minnesota Thunder scarf (if I can find it) and hope to get the chance to meet some of the old Thunder gang on Friday.