Introducing Northland Soccer Journal

Allow us to introduce ourselves. This is Northland Soccer Journal, the result of a post-SB Nation migration. We hope you’ll find NSJ to be a more easily browsable home for MNUFC content than our former roost, E Pluribus Loonum. We are still working some things out, but you can support NSJ now by following and sharing our work, and by becoming a Patreon subscriber (bonus content and other perks are in development).

The final countdown to the 2023 Major League Soccer season has begun and there is a full slate of content ahead from Northland Soccer Journal. In the meantime, bookmark the site and [re]meet the crew.

Alan Van Wyk – Writer

Follow Alan: Twitter

Why write soccer? My own competitive soccer career ended my freshman year of college as my skill reached its limit on the far end of a DIII bench. But I still and have always loved the game. It is, for me, a bit of philosophy disguised as play, filled with moments of shocking beauty and competitive cruelty. And it is just wildly joyful. My formal training is in academia (I studied and taught religious and cultural theory) but I left the field mid-career to become a homemaker and occasional writer (I really married up and am a much better supportive-husband than I ever would have been as an academic). I am excited to again have that occasional writing be about soccer.

Favorite soccer moment: My two favorite soccer moments are both yet to come. First, something amazing and impossible is going to happen this season: Emanuel Reynoso is going to thread an across-the-field, outside of the foot, nutmeg to Robin Lod in the 93rd minute of the US Open Cup to finally beat the Sounders when it matters; Christian Ramirez is going to make a triumphant return to MLS for one last season of glory leading the Columbus Crew to an MLS Cup championship; Hassani Dotson is going to find some faith in his knee and score an absolute banger on a hot mid-summer Wednesday night when it’s a little too humid to be having fun at Allianz. Something amazing and beautiful is going to happen and we are all going to get to be a part of it. Second, I celebrate a big birthday this year and so my wife got us tickets to see FC Barcelona at the Camp Nou. So yeah, there’s that.

Michael Lake – Photographer

Follow Michael: Twitter, MastodonLake Photography

Why shoot soccer? I’m a California-born transplant to Minnesota and lifelong soccer player and photographer. Sports photography is where I started: shooting for my high school newspaper on ISO 6400 black-and-white film, and ever since I’ve always been drawn to the pursuit of capturing great moments of athletes doing what they do best. There’s something immensely satisfying about getting that one perfect photo of the millisecond in time when an amazing play happens.

Favorite photo to shoot: When it comes down to it, sport is all about people and how they ride the wins and losses, the ups-and-downs, the triumphs and defeats. I love any time we get to see how those emotions are expressed on the field, whether it be through the players or supporters, and trying to capture that energy in a single frame.

Favorite soccer moment: I’ve been a goalkeeper since high school, so I am a bit partial to amazing saves. A recent one that comes to mind: I was photographing Minnesota Aurora’s quarterfinal playoff match last summer at TCO Stadium and their opponent, Indy Eleven, was awarded a PK. 6,500 fans in the stadium and in the moment before the kick, you could have heard a pin drop. When Sarah Fuller blocked that shot with a leftward dive, the crowd erupted, and you could feel the wall of sound hit you like a wave. The energy in the stadium was electric.

Goalkeeper Sarah Fuller makes a diving save in goal, framed between teammates Langdok and Symonds.
Minnesota Aurora goalkeeper Sarah Fuller (32) blocks a penalty kick during the Minnesota Aurora vs. Indy Eleven match on July 13, 2022 at TCO Stadium in the USL-W Quarterfinals (Michael Lake / Lake Photography)
Houston Dynamo FC midfielder Adalberto Carrasquilla (20) draws a yellow card in the match between Minnesota United FC and Houston Dynamo on Saturday, August 27, 2022 at Allianz Field in St. Paul, MN. (Michael Lake / Lake Photography)

(Photo by Seth Steffenhagen/Steffenhagen Photography)

Tim McLaughlin – Photographer

Why shoot soccer: I think I started shooting soccer because I wanted to go to games, be close to the action, find a way around having to pay for good seats, and be able to contribute something I can take away. I was really into photography and soccer, so it was a natural connection.

Favorite type of photo to shoot: My favorite kind of photo to shoot is any sort of break of the norm or any showing of raw emotion. The 2020/2021 Covid games were interesting as a break from normalcy. Obviously, it wasn’t the same energy without crowds but it was something distinctive that I am glad I got to document. The emotion side, we get to catch every game but there are still unique moments where a great goal is scored, there is massive frustration after a string of misses, or a particularly bad late goal is given up. Catching the faces of fans and players in those instances can make for some images that I really enjoy.

Favorite soccer moment: That’s difficult to pin down. One that comes to mind is the game against SKC when the team clinched their first MLS playoff spot. They had lost in the open cup final a few weeks prior, and the rest of their schedule was pretty tough. SKC is a consistently great team, but they were having a down year, and I know personally I felt like the team had to get it done that day. I believe they went down a goal early, were able to level out the score around halftime, and eventually Hassani Dotson scored a late goal (probably a “banger”) to secure their place in the playoffs. I remember the stadium was super tense and when the go-ahead goal was scored everyone erupted and there was a massive release of really positive energy. You live for those kinds of moments. Getting to experience nights like that in person with such an awesome group of people (meaning not only the great group of players the team put together that year but also the friends I’ve made through MNUFC and photography) is really valuable to me.

Hassani Dotson celebrates scoring the winning goal in the 90th minute of MNUFC’s 2-1 win over Sporting KC on September 25, 2019. Tim McLaughlin
MNUFC Supporters celebrate Hassani Dotson’s game winning goal, and a playoff berth, against Sporting KC on September 25, 2019. Tim McLaughlin




Seth looking up from the viewfinder of his telephoto camera, with smoke from the Wonderwall behind him.
Seth Steffenhagen in action | by Daniel Mick Photography

Seth Steffenhagen – Photographer

Follow Seth: Twitter, Instagram, Steffenhagen Photography


Why shoot soccer: Soccer has been part of my life since I started playing in elementary school. Playing on the school team and in the summer leagues as well. Recess was almost always soccer for us. Whether that be out on the grass, inside in the gym or out on the ice and snow. It was rather exciting for me that the US hosted the world cup in ‘94 and the sport would grow more here. I recorded loads of games and made highlight reels by dubbing down to a second VCR. Newcastle United became my club to follow, albeit difficult at first with minimal coverage available at the time. Then when MLS rolled out I glomed on to DC United. Years later when I moved to Saint Paul I got my first taste of Minnesota soccer through attending Thunder games. It’s been a suitable pairing to combine soccer and photography which allows me to further immerse myself into the beautiful game.


Favorite type of photo to shoot: Having the capability to get a closer perspective to the athletes of a long time favorite sport is thrilling. The atmosphere is palpable. Hearing the roar of the crowd, after the thud of a boot impacting the ball as the players whiz by down the sidelines. There are lots of highs and lows in soccer that get dramatically amplified by the score lines that are often on the smaller side. All the actions of the players and the various reactions by fans and coaching staff makes for a great scene to take in and document through photographs. Zooming in and isolating those special moments while giving a different perspective than one seen from the stands or from a TV broadcast is a favorable image to create.

Favorite soccer moment: There have been a number of moments that stood out upon reflection so I will go with one that is more unique. After the deluge that created Lake Allianz and the postponement of the US Open Cup match between Colorado and Minnesota, I found myself in a cavernous Allianz Field with a few dozen fans from the night before. The old school heckling that ensued was hilarious. Colorado goalkeeper Clint “Old Dutch” Irwin could surely hear every word spouted his way in that empty stadium. The fans made there way from the Wonderwall to the Beer Hall end to continue their antics. The basis for that nickname was another fond memory from 2018. Back when Darwin Quintero chipped Irwin three times for a hat trick. It will be interesting to see his first appearance back at Allianz Field in a Loons’ kit this season and how the fans will greet him as he comes out to warm up in front of the Wonderwall.

Minnesota United forward Darwin Quintero (25) makes a run towards goal with the ball during the match against Toronto FC at TCF Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, Minn., on Wednesday, July 4, 2018. (Photo by Seth Steffenhagen/Steffenhagen Photography)
Fans celebrate a 1-0 win after Minnesota United defeated Houston Dynamo at Allianz Field in Saint Paul, Minn., on Saturday, May 25, 2019. (Photo by Seth Steffenhagen/Steffenhagen Photography)

Bridget sits behind a microphone wearing headphones, grey ball cap, and black Puma track jacket (on brand).
Bridget McDowell in studio | Courtesy of MN Futbol Show

Bridget McDowell – Co-Editor (MNUFC)

Follow Bridget: Twitter

Why write soccer: Because of severe asthma as a kid and then chronic knee pain and injuries, my playing career never went beyond pick-up games and one college season as equipment manager. I was introduced to the game through The Big Green, the 1998 Men’s World Cup and the 1999 Women’s World Cup (Scurry’s save should have been used by the newspapers first and I will not be taking questions), but I got more invested as I went through PT. Summer sessions at home in front of whatever Premier League match was being televised, copying workouts from movies, and later using touch and shooting drills in quiet parks as a way to regain lower leg strength between surgeries. Somewhere in there, I finally started going to games. I continued to learn the game from the sidelines, met new friends in the stands and got to know them at watch parties, and our banter turned to longer conversations which (naturally) led to blog posts and podcasts. I have gained far more from this sideline life than I ever could have expected. And I finally have a use for that English degree.

Favorite type of story to write: Stories about the supporters, about issues beyond the pitch. When I first started going to matches, I spent nearly as much time focused on the supporters around the pitch as I did following the play on it. We spill a lot of ink talking about how the Beautiful Game brings people together, but some of the most seemingly inconsequential moments off the pitch make the biggest impacts on the growth of a community. And without that community, this game is nothing. That has become more apparent – and, at the same time, more tenuous – in the last few years. If we’re not telling those stories, we’re doing it wrong.

Favorite soccer moment: From the first Merseyside Derby I caught on TV (while doing Theraband exercises between rooms) to my first game at NSC, the supporters stood out. The inaugural MLS match at TCF Stadium will always be a top memory. Every winter, I find my LRT pass in the pocket of my winter jacket and every time I put it right back in and zip the pocket where it will remain long after the ink wears off. The match was awful, but the memories made with old friends and new solidified my love for the game here in Minnesota. The energy of the fans after Justin Davis’ long ball to Christian Ramirez, the night Pablo Campos leapt into the mainstand, Jerome Thieson’s loon celly, the reaction to Vito Mannone’s PK stop and a DSC triple-save, the whooping and hollering for Emanuel Reynoso’s footwork between the corner flag and two defenders… The pure joy of walking through the doors at Allianz Field, whether for a Loons match, a USWNT friendly, or an All-Star showcase. Soccer is happening right here and it’s not going anywhere.

Ashle Paige – Co-Editor (MNUFC2), Stats Analyst

Follow Ashle: Twitter

Why write soccer: I’ve been around sports in one capacity or another my entire life. After falling in love with football and MNUFC I wanted to get into the sport and started covering lower league football. I fell in love with lower league football and at the same time worked my way up to covering MLS and had a list of events I wanted to cover. In short part passion, part love for the game, and part bucket list.

Favorite type of story to write: Anything that has to do with history or promoting the game below the top level.

Favorite MNUFC moment: Pre-MLS – MNUFC vs Ottawa Fury at TCF Bank Stadium in the pouring rain, this is where I fell in love with football. In MLS – Covering the 2019 US Open Cup Final in Atlanta, GA, between MNUFC and the dastardly Atlanta United FC.