Talented soccer veterans DeAndre Yedlin and Walker Zimmerman can attest to Minnesota's passion for soccer regardless of seasons.
The duo experienced sellout crowds at Allianz Field in St. Paul at the U.S. men's national team's victory on a freezing February night, and again at the Major League Soccer All-Star Game played under idyllic summer conditions on Wednesday.
"It's a great atmosphere and a great stadium," said Zimmerman, a Nashville SC center back. "I think when they built Allianz Field, they knew it would be a place that could draw big games like this. It's a testament to the work Minnesota has done. Fans show up every time there's a game here, whether it's the Loons, the national team or the All-Star Game. It's impressive, so hats off to the people of Minnesota."
Zimmerman started the 2-1 victory over Mexico's Liga MX stars, played before a sellout crowd announced at 19,727 at the home of Minnesota United.
Yedlin, a fellow three-time All-Star selection, best remembered February's game for the shirtless fans he spotted in the crowd. The roar MLS fans provided Wednesday after Carlos Vela's goal in the third minute won't leave Yedlin's mind anytime soon.
"It was very loud," said Yedlin, a wing/back for Inter Miami CF who entered the game in the second half. "It's great to have that support. I'm sure Minnesota's players drive off that during league games."
Wednesday marked the 26th edition of the MLS All-Star Game and served as the culminating event for a week of soccer-related celebrations. Players took center stage, led by Minnesota United's own Adrian Heath. Coaching his first MLS All-Star Game meant far more than getting a good result. Heath hoped for a successful exhibition and felt the soccer community delivered.
"I did say the most pleasing thing about the last two, three days has been the way club has shown itself," Heath said. "I knew the people would turn up. I didn't think so many would turn up last night for the skills game. That speaks volumes. I knew the stadium would be full tonight.
"It's been a great way to showcase what the club has been about. I'm so pleased for all the ownership who believed in everything we've tried to do here. And it shows six years in the club is firmly on the map and we can only get bigger and stronger and better."
Heath's assessment came after the game. ESPN commentator Taylor Twellman didn't need that long. Born in Minneapolis and the son of Tim Twellman, a former Minnesota Kicks player, Twellman told viewers during Wednesday's match, "What the Twin Cities have done these last four days, it's a great showcase for what these two cities can do."
Count fans Karyn Johnson and Laura Mantell among the impressed. Both arrived in the Twin Cities for a work conference before learning about the All-Star Game and purchasing tickets.
"When I was coming in from the airport, I kept seeing signs that said, 'Liga MX.' I wondered, 'What's up with that?'" said Johnson, a Seattle resident. "I did a little Googling and said, 'Oh, I want to see that game.'"
Mantell, who hails from Brooklyn, N.Y., said, "I saw some of the fanfare around the city and on the news, which piqued my interest in going."
Both fans have experienced MLS games in their respective markets. Mantell attended a New York Red Bulls game last summer. Johnson used to frequent Seattle Sounders games and hopes to renew her fandom. Both thoroughly enjoyed their experience Wednesday.
"It's a beautiful stadium, and I love the fact that it was free to get here on mass transit," Johnson said. "It's a great crowd. Super impressed."