The convergence of Minnesota United’s first home match in Major League Soccer (4 p.m. start Sunday) and Selection Sunday (showtime: 4:30 p.m.) featuring the Gophers men’s basketball team’s first bid to the NCAA tournament since 2013 made for an interesting day.
Here are some of the winners and losers along the way:
The Gophers men’s basketball team and its fans: Gophers fans started to panic — that’s putting it mildly — when Wisconsin received a No. 8 seed in the NCAA tournament. Some predicted a double-digit seed for the Gophers after seeing that number for the Badgers, who beat the Gophers twice this year and went to the Big Ten tournament title game. One fan even tweeted at me that he was nervous the Gophers weren’t going to get in at all.
While that doomsday scenario was far-fetched — Minnesota was a lock — things couldn’t have worked out much better for the team or its fans. The Gophers landed a surprising No. 5 seed and get to play in Milwaukee.
Not only is there a reasonable path to the Sweet 16, but also all that separates Minneapolis dwellers from seeing it play out is a little time off and five hours on 94 East.
Surly Brewing: The local beer powerhouse rarely makes a false move, and Surly struck gold again by hosting a pre-match party before Minnesota United’s opener — and launching a new United Crushers Pale Ale in conjunction with the party.
Surly’s massive beer hall, a short walk from United’s temporary home at TCF Bank Stadium, was at capacity for several hours Sunday — with hundreds of people outside as well, even as the snow began to fall. At 3:15 p.m., hundreds of excited fans, led by a brass band, made the snowy march over to the stadium.
With tailgating not allowed for United games, Surly is the early leader for official pregame spot. The turnout Sunday far exceeded Surly’s expectations.
Minnesota United on the field: Taking on fellow expansion side Atlanta United — which has taken a more aggressive early approach to building its roster — the Loons had some chances but showed they are most certainly a work in progress.
Their 5-1 loss to Portland in the season opener was more lopsided than it appeared because of two very late goals. But Atlanta scored twice before frostbite could even set in Sunday on the way to a 6-1 victory.
ESPN researcher Paul Carr tweeted that Minnesota is the first team in MLS history to allow at least five goals in consecutive games. And they were the first two games in franchise history.
Anyone who was part of the announced crowd of 35,043 at TCF Bank Stadium and went to the soccer match dressed more for last Sunday’s weather (60 degrees) than this Sunday (about 20 degrees and a steady snow and biting wind): It’s a good thing soccer is big on scarves because they were necessary for United’s first MLS home match. Then again, the snow-covered field (and orange ball used for contrast) made for some striking visual images.
And it was only appropriate that it snowed, right?
This should be the only regular-season home match for United this season where cold and snow are a real issue. The next home match isn’t until April 1, and many of the team’s home dates are in the prime of summer.