MINNEAPOLIS - There’s always optimism when a new season starts, and that’s especially the case with Minnesota United in St. Paul.
The Loons open the home portion of their 2022 season Saturday night against Nashville at Allianz Field, and it’ll be a sellout crowd despite less than ideal weather conditions. The forecast calls for a high in the upper 30s or low 40s Saturday, with a chance for rain, sleet, snow and/or wind.
If we know one thing, weather won’t stop Minnesota soccer fans from being outside. Thousands braved subzero wind chills to watch the U.S. Men’s National Team beat Honduras last month in a World Cup qualifier. If Minnesota United doesn’t beat Nashville on Saturday, it won’t be because of the conditions.
"We can’t control the weather. The weather is going to be the same for both teams, and let’s get on with it. We’ve played in cold, we’ve played in wind, we’ve played in rain. It might very well be all three, but let’s get on with it," Loons’ coach Adrian Heath said. "No excuses."
The Loons started the 2022 season with a 1-1 draw last week at Philadelphia. Minnesota United’s lone goal of the game was in the 23rd minute, Robin Lod converting an assist from Franco Fragapane. Philadelphia tied the game 12 minutes later.
Minnesota United is coming off its third straight trip to the Western Conference Playoffs, finishing fifth in the conference last year. The Loons also took full advantage of their home turf, going 10-4-3 at Allianz Field last season. They’re excited to be back.
"Everyone is excited. Of course it’s great to start the season but when you start it away, it’s a soft opening, right? To open in front of your fans, the home opener, I think for us is really important and really exciting," midfielder Wil Trapp said.
Nashville comes to St. Paul after winning 1-0 last Sunday at Western Conference power Seattle in its season-opener. Nashville finished third in the Eastern Conference last season and set an MLS record with 19 draws. The Loons have a bit of a new look this season, with Ethan Finlay and Jan Gregus among the big names to depart. Lod is back as one of the top scorers from last season, as is Emanuel Reynoso, Fragapane and Luis Amarilla.
Saturday marks the first of two home matches in March for the Loons, and three out of four on home turf to start the season.
"I’m really looking forward to tomorrow. Opening Day at home is always a special day. We’ve got a sold out crowd, no doubt it will be a great atmosphere so really looking forward to it," Heath said.
Despite not getting the full three points out of Philadelphia, Heath largely liked what he saw out of Minnesota United in its first test. The hope is it carries over, and then some, to an energized home crowd.
"I thought we were in a really good spot. I think physically we’re in a really good spot, I think mentally we’re in a good spot. There’s a real good harmony within the group, and Opening Day of the season I’m really looking forward to," Heath said.
Minnesota United and Nashville kick off at 5 p.m. Saturday at Allianz Field.