This one was for the girls.
And the boys, men, and anyone who wanted to see world-class soccer on a top-tier St. Paul pitch.
On Tuesday night, the USA women’s national team beat Portugal 3-0 in a no-stakes match at Allianz Field.
The final score was beside the point for fans who showed their love for the team with their exuberant red-white-and-blue attire that included lots of jerseys, scarves and caps as well as face paint, pants and capes. St. Paul was one of only five stops on the World Cup team’s Victory Tour that has given U.S. fans a chance to get up close to the team that won its championship in Paris in July.
Soccer fans were ready to see the women in the home venue for the Minnesota United. Tickets were sold preferentially to Loons ticket holders before the general public, and they were almost all gone. The announced crowd was a sellout of 19,600.
“Easier than France,” said Peter Andrews, who bought $175 resale tickets and drove from Green Bay with his wife, Kristy Andrews.
The couple, who have two young sons, have been to Allianz before and are big Loons fans. Their sons helped them make the handmade sign with four stars signifying the four U.S. women’s World Cup championships. They also had written a shoutout to pink-coiffed star Megan Rapinoe, who was injured and didn’t play.
Like many who attended the match, their reasons went beyond mere fun to the personal and political.
Kristy Andrews was a soccer player in high school when she saw Brandi Chastain’s championship-winning penalty kick in the 1999 World Cup and was inspired by her. She and her husband also said they wanted to support the women’s team in their push for pay equity with the men’s soccer team.
Nearby, Dinkenesh Kendrick, 13, of Minneapolis, had just gotten through a long line for an autograph and a picture with Chastain. “I want to be a pro soccer player and she has an iconic moment,” said Kendrick, who secured her ticket a day before the game when a friend ended up with a spare.
Her favorite active player is Crystal Dunn, who is 5’1” and super speedy. “She can play anywhere. She’s small. She’s very quick and she’s very aggressive,” said Kendrick, who pointed out that she resembles Dunn in that she is small, competitive and African-American.
Kendrick, who was dressed in head-to-toe soccer gear, came with friends and their parents, including 13-year-old Theo Holdsworth of Minneapolis. The friends had watched World Cup matches at the Riverview Theater in Minneapolis, but “I’ve never seen them play live,” said Theo as he tangled with his 10-year-old brother, Henry.
In addition to the patriotic attire they wore, fans bought up $30 scarves and $40 Nike T-shirts in the team colors. Fans played their own pre-match games and posed for photos sitting atop a pair of giant goalkeeper gloves.
It wasn’t all about the girls. Reid Allen, 31, a season-ticket holder for the Loons, wore red, white and blue from his Zubaz pants to his shirt, headband and the unusually colored Minnesota Wild logo on his baseball cap. He said he likes to see soccer played at the “highest level.”
“With the women’s national team, you’re not going to get better than that,” he said.
Brad Lucas from Buffalo scooped up his daughter Maeva, 12, right after school to bring her to St. Paul.
Maeva plays soccer competitively five nights a week for Wright County and then gets up at 6 a.m. on weekends to watch England’s Premier League soccer, her dad said.
Maeva, who was wearing a new national team T-shirt and also got a scarf, wasn’t bothered that the stars like Rapinoe, Alex Morgan and Rose Lavelle were on the sidelines. Her favorite is Tobin Heath, a forward.
“She doesn’t understand why more people don’t think she’s the best,” Brad Lucas said of Heath as his daughter smiled.
Maddy Bachand, 12, and Julia Davis, 11, came down from Duluth with their moms, including Bachand’s mom Julia, who is their coach.
Maddy was disappointed Rapinoe didn’t play, but Julia Davis wanted to see Dunn. “She’s super aggressive and she’s super smart,” Davis said.
Like the crew from Duluth, Finley Groeneveld, 12, from Aplington, Iowa, and her aunt Brittany Groeneveld scored a bunch of new gear. They were first in line to get into the building on the $200, 30th-row tickets Groeneveld acquired to treat her soccer-playing niece. “She really loves soccer and they’re great role models. I wanted to inspire her,” the aunt said.
Groeneveld managed to get autographs from Chastain and Julie Foudy, who was on the 1991 and 1999 World Cup championship teams.
The two would make the three-hour drive home right after the match.
“Can’t miss another day of school,” aunt Brittany said.