Storylines | A story about two clubs

When does a matchup become a rivalry? I mean, surely there’s a tipping point where every pseudo-feud turns into a full-blown saga, right? The more I watch MNUFC’s clashes with Atlanta United, the more I feel like there’s something there. If they played a little more often, perhaps nature would take its course and lock them in one of those epic battles for superiority that legends are made of. Maybe they were meant to be the Barca to our Madrid, the Ohio State University to our TTUN.

Unfortunately, we don’t see our expansion friends on the schedule as often, and while that has kept the match from getting too heated, it hasn’t stopped the stories of these clubs from working together in important ways. I’ve been going through the archives to better understand our relationship with our Georgian counterparts, and I really enjoyed re-manifesting this rivalry that has gone quiet lately.

Intertwined since the beginning

During the heyday of MLS expansion, teams were popping up left and right. It’s like Don Garber did his best Oprah impression, but instead of cars he handed out football franchises. But I digress. In 2014, Atlanta was assigned team number 22, and just a year later the Twin Cities became the 23rd market to join the Major League Soccer family. But there was still work to be done before both cities saw their teams on the big stage.

After a few years of preparation, both teams started competitive matches in 2017, using the same naming pattern to introduce themselves to the football world. I should point out that Minnesota United was mentioned first, and although you copied us a bit, we know that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. We forgive you, Atlanta, but next time do your own homework. We would never copy something like that.

When two teams join at the same time, people can’t help but lump them together for a while. They’re shiny, new and exciting, and when the eyes of the competition are on you, it’s hard not to compare one to the other. Unfortunately, the first chance for direct comparison didn’t go Minnesota’s way, as the Five Stripes won 6-1 in a snow-covered TCF Bank Stadium, spoiling the Loons’ home debut and leaving a bad taste in the mouths of football fans Minnesota. . However, Adrian Heath and company got their revenge in the reverse fixture later that season, stealing three points with a 3–2 win at the Benz.

The clubs achieved vastly different results in the first year, with the Loons ranking ninth in the West with 36 points and the Atlantans finishing fourth in the East with 55 points.

After 2017, it wouldn’t have been all that surprising if these clubs met every other year at most. Because they were at different conferences, they would never remain known enemies for long, and even though they had many different stories, they kept getting caught up in the same conversations.

2018 was a banner year for Tata Martino and the Five Stripes. They finished second in the Supporters’ Shield standings, just two points behind the New York Red Bulls’ 71. Although they missed that fantastic shield, they instead claimed the MLS Cup, beating Portland 2-0 in the final and defeating MNUFC. to the first trophy in the 2017 expansion class.

The Loons took that personally and in 2019 they really stepped it up. Not only did they achieve their best finish in MLS history (fourth place with 53 points), but they also reached the 2019 US Open Cup final behind Darwin Quintero’s inspired goals. And who was waiting for them in the final? You guessed it, the Portland Timbers.

Just kidding; it was clearly Atlanta United.

With another chance to gain the upper hand over their long-lost twin and lift their first trophy since joining MLS, the Loons gave it everything they had. However, an early two-goal deficit ultimately proved too much to come back from, and despite Robin Lod’s second-half goal and a late red card for Atlanta, MNUFC fell 2–1.

Since then, these two eternally linked clubs have not met again, until now. Saturday’s match marks the long-awaited revival of the Class of 2017 Derby, and while Atlanta United has had a better start in MLS, I have a feeling the Loons will ultimately gain the upper hand as time goes on. Current form is certainly in MNUFC’s favor, and given the away results they have already achieved this season, I wouldn’t bet against the Black and Blue to land the next blow in this future rivalry.