Editor's note: We sent various Star Tribune staff members out to different summer sporting events and asked them to write about the experience from the perspective of a fan. This is what the "Secret Fan" found:
"It takes a lot for us to actually postpone it." With that, the voice on the phone from the Minnesota Thunder soccer team reassured me that the scheduled game at National Sports Center in Blaine would go on, despite the inclement weather arriving later that day.
Alas, what was great for my lawn wasn't so great for me. The rain that came to the Twin Cities last Tuesday didn't keep the Thunder from playing its U.S. Open Cup match that night. However, it kept fans away, as there couldn't have been more than 100 people in a stadium that can seat up to 12,000.
Those there were a hearty lot, ready with jackets, blankets and umbrellas. Soon after entering the stadium, I found staffers distributing ponchos and seat cushions to keep fans dry. When I asked if I should return the cushion after the game, the reply was, "If you forget about it, that's no problem." Sweet -- free seat cushion!
It wasn't the last time the staff would accommodate me.
As the first half progressed, it became clear the 20 or so fans at one end were plenty more vocal than those in the main section. The reason? That end was the "Thunder Lounge," the beer garden.
Once there, I bought a pork sandwich and a Goose Island -- both $6, $1 more than the price of admission -- and sat down to eat. Trying to do so while keeping my umbrella upright, I ended up knocking my mostly full beer over, getting my jeans more soaked than they already were.
Sheepishly, I went back to buy another beer. After I explained what happened, the guy behind the counter gave me another at no charge. Sweet -- free beer for being clumsy!
As for the game itself, it was a blowout. Playing against the Chicago Fire PDL (Premier Development League, not to be confused with the Major League Soccer version), the Thunder won 4-0, scoring twice in the first half and twice in front of the approving beer-garden crowd in the second, with both those goals coming from Melvin Tarley.
A Liberian who now calls Brooklyn Center home, Tarley is representative of not only the Thunder roster (a mix of Midwesterners, other Americans and internationals) but the crowd as well -- a lot of accents could be heard from people who didn't grow up hearing Ole and Sven jokes.
The halftime entertainment included two fans from St. Paul ... and another from Micronesia. Behind the Chicago bench hung 11 flags from around the world.
Fans talked about everything soccer: the game, the previous night's U.S.-Italy match, the old MISL. They didn't seem to talk, or care, about the rain.
One spilled beer notwithstanding, the rain didn't prove as bothersome as it could have. As the ticket taker told me as I complained about the weather: "Well, at least you've got an umbrella. You'll be fine."