September 25th, 2019 will hold a special place in a lot of people’s hearts around Twins Territory for being the day that the Twins won the AL Central for the first time in 9 years. As incredible as that is to think about, I will remember this day for more than just that reason. About an hour and a half before Jace Fry left the bases full in the 9th and the White Sox helped the Twins by eliminating Cleveland from the division race, Minnesota United FC (or the Minnesota Loons, if you’re not a fan of European soccer naming conventions) locked up their 2019 playoff berth thanks to a last minute game winner from Hassani Dotson that sent the newest stadium in the Twin Cities into a frenzy.
I have not been a Loons fan nearly long enough to actually understand the full scope of what this means to soccer fans in Minnesota, because I jumped on the bandwagon a little over a year ago. However, I do know that I was very happy watching that goal go in the back of the net, and so were the 20,000-ish fans in attendance.
I had my attention turned to the Twins for most of the night, but I flipped to Fox Sports North Plus after Eddie Rosario’s 8th inning homer made it 5-1 Twins. From what I gathered via my Twitter timeline, I hadn’t missed much action in the Loons game, other than a goal by Kansas City to put them in a 1-0 hole. There was about a half hour left in the game when I turned it on, and the Loons scored twice in the final 20 minutes to win the game 2-1. They didn’t have to win that game to lock up a playoff berth, but doing it with a win (and a dramatic one at that) was much more satisfying than having to rely on other results. As it would turn out, that wasn’t the only clincher for a Minnesota team that would occur that night.
Immediately after the Loons finished up, I turned on MLB Tonight, hoping to see the end of Cleveland’s game against the White Sox. I had been keeping a very close eye on it ever since the Twins dropped the magic number to 1, and when Cleveland was down to their final out, MLB Network showed the last few at bats, alongside a look into the Twins clubhouse as they waited to see if they’d be AL Central champions that night. There was a pretty long delay in between the final out and the celebration in the clubhouse. It was almost like I waited to celebrate with them, even though I knew the outcome. It felt more genuine when I saw the happiness on all of the players’ faces.
It’s fairly rare to see the teams you cheer for make the playoffs (unless you live in Boston), and I had just seen it happen two times in one night. The Loons officially clinched their postseason berth at 9PM, and the Twins followed up just before 10:30. Most of the attention (rightfully) went to the Twins, but it’s pretty hard to think of a better sequence in Minnesota sports history than that one. I had been talking about the potential for a double clinch, but I didn’t actually expect it to happen. I knew the Twins and Loons were both favored, but I also knew the Twins needed help from the White Sox, which I wasn’t exactly feeling great about. But it happened, and for that I am incredibly thankful.
The Twins will unfortunately probably have to face the Yankees in the postseason, a fate that has doomed them so many times in the past. But for some reason, this year feels a little different. I don’t know what it is about this year’s team that makes me feel a bit better about their chances. Maybe it’s the fact that they are almost certainly going to pass the 300 home run mark. I feel very confident about the Bomba Squad’s ability to stay competitive no matter the opponent. As for the Loons, well, they’ll probably bump into LAFC at some point. They’re basically the soccer version of the Yankees. LAFC is the highest scoring team and the best defensive team in MLS this year, and they just clinched the league’s best record last night. No matter what happens in the postseason for both teams, I had a ton of fun watching them this summer, and I can’t WAIT to see what the Twin Cities looks like with postseason baseball and postseason soccer taking place in it. This is gonna be one heck of an October.