PORTLAND, Ore. – In a shadowy and crowded bar about three-quarters of a mile from Providence Park, Dark Clouds gathered.
Actual dark clouds, because it was rainy in Portland ahead of United FC’s inaugural Major League Soccer season opener Friday against Portland Timbers. The other Dark Clouds were the 153 fans from the club’s supporters’ group who made the near-2,000-mile trek to back the team in its first top-division outing.
The group chanted “Come on you Loons” and “Minnesota, black and blue.” The team bought every fan a beer and a scarf. And team owner Bill McGuire, President Nick Rogers, Sporting Director Manny Lagos and director of player personnel Amos Magee all made appearances at Yur’s Bar & Grill before the pack marched to the stadium.
United fans from California also made the trip along with all the Minnesotans. And Dark Clouds member Ben Krouse-Gagne estimated this was the largest away trip the supporters group had ever organized, by three times.
“I flew in Thursday afternoon. I sat across the aisle from Nick Rogers. Amos Magee was on the flight, so I talked to him at the gate,” Krouse-Gagne said. “The inaugural game is something you want to be at for the club. … It’s a community. People care for each other.”
De Villardi makes cut
Of the 10 trialists and three unsigned draftees United FC entered preseason with back at the end of January, only one emerged with a golden ticket.
In this case, a big-league contract.
Defender Thomas de Villardi, whom United drafted in the second round of the MLS SuperDraft in mid-January, is currently working on the details of his contract.
He missed the trip to Portland for the season opener because of that as well as a sprained ankle endured in a 2-0 preseason loss Sunday against San Antonio FC in Florida that will keep him out for about a week.
“It’s a great feeling for sure,” de Villardi said Wednesday, adding he thinks United’s players, staff, coaches and environment are all great. “I’m really excited to be a part of this group.”
De Villardi has played at left-back for United and will be one of starter Justin Davis’ backups at that spot. His versatility when it comes to the back end of the field is what he thinks helped him nab a roster spot, whereas other unsigned players were trying to break into an already stacked attack. He played as a left-back and center-back as a youth player, only moving to the midfield as a No. 10 or left-winger in college.
“That’s one good aspect about me is I can play a lot of positions,” de Villardi said. “I’ll play anywhere. I’ll play goalie.”
The 22-year-old Frenchmen, who holds citizenship in the U.S. as well, played at Duquesne and Delaware.
And while the contract is on its way, de Villardi isn’t changing his eager-to-learn mind-set.
“I’m a rookie, so I’m being patient,” he said. “Even if I don’t play the next few games, I’m here to improve every day and work on my weaknesses, my strengths, too.”