Minnesota Aurora FC opens highly-anticipated 2023 season Wednesday night

Morgan Stone remembers being on campus at Boise State last year, only being able to sit and watch as Minnesota Aurora FC lost its only game of the 2022 season, 2-1 in extra time with the USL-W title on the line.

If the Aurora get that far in their second season, she’ll be on the field with her teammates. That unfinished business also played a part in her return to Minnesota Aurora FC this season.

"I’m a competitor and it was hard. We all have duties back at our college team. Coming back, I said I have to be here, I have to finish out this season with this team because I want to see it through that we bring home a championship of the whole league. Not just division champs, but the whole league," Stone said after Monday’s training session. "I want to be an integral part of that."

That journey starts Wednesday night, as Minnesota Aurora FC faces Rochester FC in what’s expected to be a capacity crowd at TCO Stadium. If you don’t have tickets, it’s a game you can watch on Fox 9 Plus!

Minnesota Aurora has 17 of its 28 players back from last season’s 13-win campaign and run to the championship game. That’s raised the floor of what this program can be.

After more than two weeks of training, things get real Wednesday night.

"I’m really excited. It feels like it has been 300 days since I’ve coached a game here in TCO Stadium. Just the whole group is really excited to show the community what we’ve been working on since we’ve been together here in May," coach Nicole Lukic said.

Minnesota Aurora FC out-scored opponents 38-11 in 15r games last year and had six clean sheets. Lukic said during the preseason they’ve preached "The Aurora Way," which involves scoring a lot of goals. They got their first chance to play another team over the weekend, having two scrimmages.

"It was great to be able to test ourselves against somebody else. I think our players are really looking forward just to playing a different opponent besides themselves," Lukic said. "It was great to see what our strengths are right now and some areas we still need to focus on."

One of Lukic’s biggest decisions will be at keeper. All four between Amanda Poorbaugh, Bayliss Flynn, Olivia Graupmann and Taylor Kane got 45 minutes each over the two scrimmages. After having Sarah Fuller in her back pocket last year, Lukic isn’t tipping her hand for who will play Wednesday.

If last year is any indication, it should be a festive atmosphere Wednesday night as Minnesota Aurora FC plays the first of six home matches at TCO Stadium.

"The community means everything to us. We can’t be here without the community supporting us. It really makes all the hard work that we’ve been putting in worth it," Stone said.