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Four years after he sold pretzels and nachos at Allianz Field's grand opening, Devin Padelford unexpectedly made his MLS debut there in last Saturday's 1-1 draw with Toronto FC.

Minnesota United's homegrown fullback entered in the 69th minute for DJ Taylor and marked Toronto FC and Italian national team attacking midfielder Federico Bernardeschi on the wing.

It has been a long road back to Allianz and MLS action.

"Awesome," Padelford said. "Dream come true again."

Raised in Maplewood and educated at Woodbury High, Padelford came up through Minnesota's club system and Minnesota United's U-19 academy team. He moved into the Loons' MNUFC2 reserve team and its MLS Next Pro level last season and made his team debut in U.S. Open Cup competition.

Formerly a left-footed attacker, he moved to left back in the Loons' program after his concession days were done.

“It's funny looking back at that and then you're seeing yourself playing in front of 20,000 people at Allianz. It's weird how the world works, man.”
Devin Padelford

On a job tip from his mother, Padelford worked the stadium's concession stands for several games early in the Loons' 2019 season. It was a fundraiser for his St. Croix Valley club team that won a Las Vegas tournament and earned a trip to Spain to tour Real Madrid facilities, among other sites.

He wore a hair net, passed out pretzels and poured soft drinks to earn spending money for the trip. Padelford was 16.

"It's funny looking back at that, and then you're seeing yourself playing in front of 20,000 people at Allianz," Padelford said. "It's weird how the world works, man."

He watched the games almost as much as he worked the concession stands back then.

"I'd try to find time when I would not be on the line so I could just watch the game," Padelford said. "I'd get distracted easily. I got to see a decent amount. It was against New York City [FC], right?"

Yes, a 3-3 draw. So who scored the first goal in Allianz Field history that night? Padelford paused a beat.

"Was it Ozzie?" Padelford asked, referring to former Loons veteran Osvaldo Alonso. "Yeah, it was Ozzie."

Padelford's pathway to the first team will earn him $74,360 in guaranteed compensation this season. The first man he marked in his debut, Bernardeschi, will earn $6,295,381.

"Welcome to the real world," Loons coach Adrian Heath said about Padelford's debut. "I thought he did well. He got a couple of good crosses in and I thought what was telling about his quote — serving concessions in the stadium while Bernardeschi's in the World Cup — that's how quickly your life can change."

Padelford remembers watching Bernardeschi win the UEFA Euro 2020 with Italy and play for Italian club Juventus in the Champions League.

Padelford told him so soon after he entered the game.

"I actually said something to him right away," Padelford said. "I was watching him in the 2020 Euro with Italy and with Juve in Champions League and I just fell in love with him and how he played. I just had to tell him, 'This is crazy, this is so cool.' "

He received a high-five in return.

"He was really cool about it," Padelford said. "I wasn't expecting him to be the first guy I'd go up against."

Padelford's debut was the highlight of his young pro career so far, but a reminder also.

"If good things happen, be happy for it," Padelford said. "But not for too long because you'll get too far ahead of yourself. And if bad things happen, don't get too low because it can ruin your next opportunity. You have to stay positive, no matter what. That's the big thing I've learned."