United FC hopes televised home matches build fan base

  • Article by: DAVID LA VAQUE , Star Tribune
  • Updated: April 26, 2014 - 1:03 AM

The NASL team, 2-0 on the road, expects to win more home games this season.

Raucous fans. Burning flares. A last-second goal.

Jamie Watson remembers well his most recent match at the National Sports Center in Blaine, when Minnesota won the first leg of the 2012 Soccer Bowl championship series.

Watson, who played in Orlando last season, returns for another home match meaningful to Minnesota soccer. Securing its first broadcast partnership ever, United FC will be one of only five North American Soccer League teams with all of its home games on television. KSTC (Ch. 45) will be the home for United soccer.

“This has the potential to grab the fan who likes soccer or the fan that loves soccer and still didn’t know we have this here,” Watson said. “It’s a top-20 market in the country, and we’re breaking into that. It shows the club is progressing.”

Doing its part to entice fans, United FC opened the spring season with two road victories. But Minnesota, which plays FC Edmonton at 7 p.m. Saturday, must become a more formidable home team. United’s 16 points last season in home matches was tied for the league worst. In contrast, New York had 17 points in its fall season home matches alone en route to the title.

Carolina owns the ultimate home-field advantage. The RailHawks enter the weekend riding a 17-match unbeaten streak at home.

Coach Manny Lagos, who called televised home matches an honor, knows increased exposure means higher expectations.

“There were some good moments at home last season but what hurt the most was a lack of consistency,” Lagos said. “We expect to deal better with the stresses of what it means to play at home, getting results and providing a high quality of play for the fans.”

Lagos said his team has answered all his challenges thus far.

After a season-opening 2-0 victory in San Antonio, Lagos urged his team to defend better near the Minnesota goal. Players responded with what he called “an outstanding defensive effort” one week later at Ottawa. They spoiled the first home match ever for the expansion Ottawa Fury, snatching a 2-1 victory on a stoppage time goal from Christian Ramirez.

With an eye on both the soccer standings and the team’s tenuous foothold in a competitive Twin Cities sports market, players hope to make Saturday’s home debut something special.

“Any athlete is a salesperson in their sport,” midfielder Aaron Pitchkolan said. “If you show that you’re passionate and excited about what you do, hopefully you will pass that on to others.”

Pitchkolan, who regularly played on local or national television during his time with Major League Soccer clubs, said, “You never know who is watching and what sort of new fans you might pick up. They will see a great atmosphere on TV and maybe they’ll come check it out.”

Minnesota’s final two home matches in 2013 were televised by KSTC and Fox Sports North. Both were interested in a partnership this season, United FC team president Nick Rogers said, but “FSN carries the Twins, so we are more of the main event on Channel 45 rather than secondary.”

Ratings for last season’s KSTC match ‘‘was low but detectable and that was very positive considering it was [a] one-off deal that was not well-promoted.”

Rogers does not see televising games as a conflict to selling tickets. He said the club already has “four times the season-ticket holder base” it had last season.

“We were already broadcasting our games online last year,” Rogers said. “I think television just lets more people know what we’re doing.”

Playing all but one of its 2013 spring season matches at the more centrally located Metrodome, the club averaged more than 5,000 fans at each of its five games and ranked second in the NASL in home attendance (5,338). The fall season home attendance average at the National Sports Center in Blaine dropped to 3,679, seventh in the eight-team NASL.

Rogers believes on-field success, plus broader television exposure, will attract more fans. The Metrodome provided a familiar location, he said, but playing on grass outdoors in a more intimate stadium offers advantages.

“The distance to Blaine is more psychological than physical,” Rogers said. “It’s 15 to 20 minutes from downtown, there’s free parking and we offer one of the last true tailgating experiences.”

Rogers, who watches his favorite European soccer clubs play on television, said it’s “very cool” to see United FC getting similar treatment.

“A big part of our job is bringing soccer to the people,” Rogers said. “This is a great way to get ourselves out there.”

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

Tampa 1 Top 7th Inning
Philadelphia 2
LA Clippers 80 4th Qtr 6:15
Chicago 78
Cleveland 2:30 PM
Houston
Golden State 5:00 PM
Boston
Philadelphia 5:00 PM
Indiana
Portland 5:00 PM
Sacramento
Charlotte 5:00 PM
Orlando
Oklahoma City 5:30 PM
LA Lakers
New Orleans 7:00 PM
Denver
Los Angeles 3:00 PM
Winnipeg
Tampa Bay 4:00 PM
Florida
Columbus 4:00 PM
Pittsburgh
Toronto 6:00 PM
Washington
Anaheim 7:00 PM
Dallas
St. Louis 8:30 PM
Vancouver
SMU 26 2nd Half
Connecticut 32
Quinnipiac 34 2nd Half
Manhattan 37
Fairfield 32 2nd Half
Niagara 26
Marist 23 2nd Half
Rider 21
Iona 29 2nd Half
Saint Peters 38
Oregon State 2:00 PM
California
South Florida 0 1st Half 19:36
Houston 2
Marquette 2:30 PM
Providence
Michigan State 3:00 PM
Wisconsin
Siena 3:30 PM
Monmouth
Pittsburgh 5:30 PM
Wake Forest
Oregon 6:00 PM
Stanford
Purdue 6:30 PM
Ohio State
Arizona State 7:30 PM
Colorado
Washington St 8:30 PM
UCLA
Georgetown 66 FINAL
Providence 81
Binghamton 50 FINAL
UMBC 73
Elon 58 2nd Half 0:55
Hofstra 54
Virginia Tech 47 FINAL
Boston College 49
(8) Louisville 54 2nd Half 2:20
Virginia 65
Texas 64 1st OT 2:00
West Virginia 67
Creighton 53 FINAL
Villanova 61
Seton Hall 85 FINAL
Butler 76
UNC-Wilmington 76 FINAL
Coll of Charleston 65
(5) Maryland 69 FINAL
(25) Northwestern 48
Saint Josephs 67 FINAL
La Salle 55
Louisiana Tech 52 2nd Half 0:23
TX-San Antonio 60
Rhode Island 29 2nd Half
Massachusetts 38
Richmond 20 2nd Half 20:00
VA Commonwealth 23
Davidson 21 2nd Half 20:00
Fordham 31
St Bonaventure 25 2nd Half 19:04
Duquesne 27
George Mason 22 2nd Half
(22) George Washington 45
Indiana 26 2nd Half 20:00
(20) Rutgers 30
(12) Texas A&M 35 2nd Half
LSU 47
Ole Miss 16 2nd Half 20:00
(11) Miss State 28
Clemson 36 2nd Half 16:52
Pittsburgh 29
Maine 21 2nd Half 20:00
New Hampshire 28
Vermont 22 2nd Half
Albany 30
Quinnipiac 37 2nd Half
Monmouth 22
Saint Peters 31 2nd Half 16:16
Siena 32
(4) Notre Dame 39 2nd Half 19:36
NC State 31
Wisconsin 36 2nd Half 20:00
Penn State 24
Stony Brook 19 2nd Half
Hartford 24
Northeastern 22 2nd Half 17:35
William & Mary 39
St Johns 35 2nd Half 17:16
Xavier 32
James Madison 40 2nd Half 17:02
Delaware 44
Towson 2:00 PM
Drexel
Illinois State 2:00 PM
Bradley
Southern Ill 2:00 PM
Loyola-Chicago
Northern Iowa 2:00 PM
Wichita State
Minnesota 2:00 PM
(17) Iowa
(15) North Carolina 2:00 PM
(16) Duke
Alabama 2:00 PM
Auburn
(9) Florida State 2:00 PM
Miami-Florida
Arkansas 2:00 PM
Missouri
Georgia 2:00 PM
Florida
Dayton 2:00 PM
Saint Louis
Drake 2:05 PM
Missouri State
Colorado 3:00 PM
(10) Arizona State
(19) Stanford 3:00 PM
Oregon
Marquette 3:00 PM
DePaul
Southern Miss 3:00 PM
Texas-El Paso
Vanderbilt 4:00 PM
(6) Tennessee
(2) South Carolina 4:00 PM
(13) Kentucky
Utah 4:00 PM
Arizona
Ohio State 4:00 PM
Nebraska

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: With Adrian Peterson's suspension overturned, what should the Vikings do?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close