Bill McGuire took the aisle and I sat next to him during the first half of Sunday’s soccer tilt between United and the vistors from Kansas City. He gave me a scarf celebrating United, and there were puzzled looks within his group when I said in all candor:
“My No. 1 complaint about soccer is men wearing scarves.’’
Which is true. I don’t think it’s manly to wear a scarf other than when shoveling snow, but that’s just me, and I have some peculiarities.
The National Anthem was finished and then McGuire gave me this warning: “Sporting KC is a very good team. We’re going to need three goals to win this match.’’
McGuire is the lead owner of United. He’s taken in added partners as United upgraded for 2017 to Major League Soccer, the best that soccer has to offer in North America.
The MLS expansion fee is $100 million, and there are all those millions that will go into building an actual soccer stadium in St. Paul’s Midway district. That still requires the GOP-held Legislature and our DFL governor, Mark Dayton, to A) agree on a budget deal, and B) include property tax benefits for the soccer team.
The future stadium was not McGuire’s concern on Sunday. It was how his expansion squad could hold up against this stout crew from Kansas City. The last time I heard this much concern over a bunch of bad dudes from Kansas City was watching episodes of “Fargo’’ on FX.
Fortunately for McGuire, he was a lousy prognosticator on Sunday, as it only took two goals in the first half for United to have more than enough to send Sporting KC to a second loss in 10 contests.
The Loons (what a fine unofficial nickname) have played 10 times and this 2-0 victory over a Western Conference contender was by far the most impressive effort. That’s what everyone was telling me anyway, including the owner as his team took that two-goal lead into halftime.
As we “Fargo’’ fans realize, those gangsters from Kansas City have a tendency to be overly confident, and apparently that also was the case with the soccer team from there.
KC coach Peter Vermes held out a couple of his standouts in the first half, and by the time he adjusted the lineup, his outfit was already whipped.
Sporting KC couldn’t get a ball behind United goalie Bobby Shuttleworth, even after he took one to the face and came out looking worse than Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. after getting pummeled for 12 rounds by Canelo Alvarez.
Shuttleworth bled for a while, adding minutes to the second half, and showed off a grotesquely swollen and broken nose after the game, but he still wound up with a shutout.
(Note: Yes, Shuttleworth had a shutout, and anyone who mentions “clean sheet’’ in my presence and happens to be a male wearing a scarf around his neck, I simply can’t be responsible for what happens next).
Yet, even with a Shuttleworth performance that was as gutsy as you see from many NHLers in the playoffs (Wild excluded), he was not the winner of my Player of the Game award.
It’s true. On all occasions when attending a Loons game in MLS, I have selected the individual that I consider to be the Player of the Game. And that means the first winner of the Reusse Award is Miguel Ibarra, the maestro from the middle, once a superstar with the Blaine version of United, now a terrific re-acquisition for the MLS version.
The goals in the first half came from rookie Abu Danladi and from Christian Ramirez, the goal-scoring machine of those Blaine days.
Danladi was the No. 1 overall selection in the collegiate draft and this was his first start up front. If this first goal is followed by a few more, Danladi could be the kid to stir a bit more conversation about United with the future star angle.
That conversation is something badly needed, since the crowds at TCF Bank Stadium have to pick up substantially this summer for MLS Season 1 not to go down as a ticket-selling disappointment.
Danladi and Ramirez did fine work in putting in Sunday's chances, but the setups from Ibarra were the story. Miguel beat the right side of KC’s defense both times and made passes to the front of the goal that were ... heck, they were spiffy.
I might not know soccer as well as Bill McGuire, and certainly not as well as Bruce McGuire, but I do know spiffy when seeing it on an athletic field, and the passes from Ibarra were all of that.
Which is opposite of scarves on men. Not spiffy.