ST PAUL, Minn. (FOX 9) - It was a historic day at Allianz Field with the Minnesota United officially breaking in their brand new soccer stadium.
It was a sellout crowd and the energy was as high as it will probably ever be. The only thing missing at the end of the day was three points. After a flurry of first-half scoring, the Loons settled for a 3-3 tie with New York City FC in a game that featured own goals, an electric atmosphere and some chippy play at the end.
The overwhelming sentiment: “At least we didn’t lose.”
“Obviously today we wanted it to be a special day for everybody. It’s been a great day. I’m glad it’s all over, I’m glad we didn’t lose,” coach Adrian Heath said. “I thought our supporters were magnificent, I thought the noise in the stadium was incredible and it bodes for better times ahead I think.”
Minnesota United played one of its most spirited games of the early season so far in front of nearly 20,000 fans. Most of them were standing, yelling and waving scarves for a majority of the contest. The Wonderwall section of fans behind one of the goals did chants and banged celebratory drums, creating the home environment the United have been looking for since Allianz Field was in the thought process.
The players took the time to let the magnitude of the moment sink in as they were being introduced onto the field. It’s been a goal for the United to have their own stadium to play in since the day the club started nine years ago.
That dream became a reality on Saturday, and it was an emotional moment for several players.
“This will probably be the only time I’ll ever in my career have an opportunity to do what we did today, open up a new stadium and be part of that. It was special, I had hairs on the back of my neck standing up as we came out,” midfielder Ethan Finlay said. “Special day.”
Osvaldo Alonso got the historic first United goal at Allianz Field in the 13th minute. After a series of headed deflections, he hit a rocket off his right foot past goalie Sean Johnson, and the Allianz Field crowd exploded as the Loons took a 1-0 lead.
“I hit it hard and I hit it well. I scored a goal and people started screaming. It was a great moment for me,” said Alonso, who added that it was amazing to play in a stadium full of nearly 20,000 people.
New York City FC answered right back to take a 2-1 lead with a pair of goals in the 16th and 18th minutes. Just two minutes later, Angelo Rodriguez tied it for the Loons on a header with assists from Ethan Finlay and Jan Gregus.
Minnesota United took a 3-2 lead into the half in one of the more odd goals you’ll ever see in soccer. Johnson tried to play a spinning ball in front of his own net with a side tap, but whiffed on the attempt and the ball wound up in the back of the net.
It was an own goal, and it gave the United the lead. Johnson heard from the United fans on every touch the rest of the game.
“The keeper over there, people will keep talking about it but he’s a really good keeper. He’s a good boy and he’ll recover from that,” Heath said.
It was the end of a furious first half that had plenty of action on both sides of the field. Too much for Heath’s liking.
New York City FC scored the game-tying goal in the 64th minute after it looked like they had tied it earlier, but it was waved off after a review due to a hand ball. The tying goal came off a free kick, and appeared to deflect off Francisco Calvo. Vito Mannone never had a chance for the save.
In some ways, the Loons were fortunate to get out with a tie. They were out-shot 16-12 for the game, and New York City FC had the ball 66 percent of the time.
“The game was too open for my liking. We gave away three poor goals, they didn’t have to work hard enough for their goals so for us to come away from the game with something, I’m pleased for that,” Heath said.
The final minutes of regulation included a scary moment for Ike Opara. While competing for a header off a corner kick, he had a significant head collision with a New York City FC player. Both were down on the ground for several minutes, and players immediately signaled for trainers to get on the field. Both players eventually got off the field with assistance from trainers, and Opara left the game with a bleeding cut on his head.
Heath didn’t have an update on Opara after the game.
It was about as good of a start to Allianz Field as United players and fans could ask for, other than getting three points. For the sixth game of the regular season, it definitely had a playoff feel.
“The fans were incredible, it was an awesome atmosphere. It feels like they’re right on top of the game, and I think that adrenaline really showed in the game,” defender Brent Kallman said. “We really wanted to win for everybody, but at least we didn’t lose.”