Collen Warner saw his wish granted in Minnesota United FC’s home opener Sunday at TCF Bank Stadium.
“I bumped into some of the fans [Saturday] morning at breakfast, and we were talking about it, and we were just saying how we’ve been, like, praying that it would snow,” United’s midfielder said Saturday. “It would be special. It would be something unique. It’ll give the fans an opportunity to show you they don’t care what the weather is, they’ll be there in support. And it’ll give us an opportunity to do the same and give everything for them.”
So, in that sense — with steady snow falling the entire match, coating the pitch so much that in-match snow-blowing breaks to clear the lines became necessary – call United’s first Major League Soccer match in its home state a success.
The 6-1 loss to fellow expansion team Atlanta United FC that did little to dispel the stark comparisons between the two sides was the sad-trombone part of it.
United just barely exceeded its 35,000-plus projections, drawing an announced crowd of 35,043. The cold temperatures and swirling snow likely deterred some fans, like Mankato’s Shane Drahota, who had planned to make the about hour-and-a-half drive to the match with his wife and 5-year-old son before the storm forced him to change plans Saturday to attend the April 1 home match instead.
In fact, the 20-degree kickoff temperature tied for the coldest match in MLS history, according to the league. It was also the ninth match played with snow, also per the league.
While United coach Adrian Heath said his team couldn’t use weather as an excuse, especially since “Hotlanta” seemed to have no trouble with it, forward Christian Ramirez did remark after the match that it felt like “playing in sand.”
Two of Atlanta’s designated players scored most of the team’s goals. Forward Josef Martinez notched a hat trick, scoring in the third, 27th and 75th minute. Midfielder Miguel Almiron added a brace, sinking his goals in the 13th and 52nd minute. Late second-half substitute forward Jacob Peterson tallied the final score in stoppage time.
The Loons’ only goal came from Kevin Molino’s converted penalty kick in the 30th minute, in his first time playing in snow.
“I’m not very keen on [talking about the goal]. It’s team performance first, and I wish we could have done better,” Molino said. “All credit to Atlanta. They are a great quality team, and it showed here today.”
United coach Adrian Heath actually apologized after the match for his team’s performance, saying the supporters who braved the elements deserved better than such a disappointing showing.
“What is to blame? Poor defending,” Heath said. “I thought there were a couple of quality finishes in their goals today, but on a whole, I thought we were poor at the back. I said that last week [after a 5-1 loss at Portland], said that again this week. So obviously, we have a lot of work to do there. Now whether that is collectively or individually and whether that means that we change one or two things or we change one or two individuals, that is what we will have to look at for next week.”
So in all, the Loons would rather people remember this match for the bleak conditions than the bleak result.
“It was great,” Warner said postmatch of playing in the snow. “I thought it would be a little bit more, a little bit colder. But it was nice to see everybody come out regardless of the weather, and I think the game was special because of it.
“You know, our performance,” Warner said, “wasn’t really up to what the crowd gave us today.”