MINNEAPOLIS - Minnesota United is still four days away from its 2021 home opener at Allianz Field, but the Loons got a taste last Friday night of what it’s like to play in front of fans again.
Minnesota United opened its season at Seattle Sounders FC in front of about 7,000 fans in what was a rematch of last year’s Western Conference title game. The two teams were tied at half, but Seattle used three goals in a 15-minute span in the second half to pull away for a 4-0 victory over the Loons.
It wasn’t the result the Loons wanted with high expectations coming into 2021, but it’s just one game and they got to play in front of fans again.
"It was really exciting. I’d be lying to you if I wasn’t super excited. Even though it wasn’t our fans, it was great to see people in the stands. To hear real cheers and what real jeers actually sound like again. It’s one of the reasons we play this sport," midfielder Ethan Finlay said.
Tuesday, the reality of playing at home in an actual atmosphere again got a little more real. The Loons held a full team training session at Allianz Field, their first of the season, ahead of Saturday’s home opener against Real Salt Lake. While the facility has a capacity of about 19,400, the team will host up to 4,100 fans against Real Salt Lake.
Last year, the Loons were on the verge of starting a four-game home stand when Major League Soccer suspended its season due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Minnesota United would prefer a full house, but they’ll take what they can get after not having any fans once the season resumed.
"It’s a huge thing. It brings soccer to everybody and that’s why we play. It’s a huge factor and I’m really ready for Saturday. To get our fans in the stands and get to play in front of them is always a proud thing. It’s amazing," Robin Lod said.
Loons coach Adrian Heath said it was actually emotional to play in front of fans again at Seattle, and it’s a taste of what they’ve missed at Allianz Field with the Wonderwall.
"We’re all excited about going back in for the weekend, starting the season with some fans in the stadium, which is going to be nice," Heath said. "We spoke about the 7,000 in the stadium in Seattle and what it did for the team. It was just great to see."
The Loons, despite an atmosphere without fans last season, still went 5-1-3 at Allianz Field last season and made history with their first home playoff win. Training there Tuesday was a reminder of what the home turf feels like.
"I think it’s always fun to come out and train at the stadium. It’s a beautiful pitch, it’s our place of worship if you will on the weekends. It’s where we get to go and do some of the beautiful stuff that we enjoy doing. It’s always special to come out here," Finlay said.
Minnesota United will host Real Salt Lake and Austin FC before going back on the road May 8.