Minnesota United coach Carl Craig sprayed a can of hard cider on appreciative fans after Saturday's match, jumped over the field boards into the crowd and later gave his shoes to a young fan.
A long sigh prefaced his press conference, however. The Loons saw their playoff chances end with a 1-0 loss to New York in the final North American Soccer League game at Blaine's National Sports Center Stadium. The club moves to Major League Soccer next year and a new temporary home at TCF Bank Stadium. The club will continue to train at the National Sports Center.
Rather than bolting for the exits, a larger number of fans hung around the stadium on the final night. Members of the Dark Clouds and True North Elite supporters sections chanted, "We want Carl," to draw Minnesota coach Carl Craig over for what could be a goodbye.
"To have people support you in your job who really don't know you, that's an amazing feeling," Craig said. "The place has been packed all year. We've been going up and down, up and down. These guys still turn up right behind us. I wished we could have given them more but it wasn't to be."
Minnesota, desperate to end the Blaine era with a victory and preserve its playoff chances, applied constant offensive pressure in the second half. The Loons fired 16 shots but the announced crowd of 8,609 fans let out several collective groans as balls deflected wide or sailed high or Cosmos goalkeeper Jimmy Maurer made stops.
"The atmosphere was great as usual here," said defender Justin Davis, who has played in Minnesota since 2011. "It's unfortunate to go out with a loss but the second half was second to none. It's a shame we didn't get one."
Minnesota leaves the NASL with just one victory in 11 tries against New York. Eric Calvillo's header goal early in the second half held up as the game winner.
Though bidding a sad farewell to Blaine, home to local soccer for 22 full seasons since 1990, Minnesota's future is bright. And uncertain. Contracts for Minnesota's players or coaches are not transferable to MLS. Decisions must be made on who makes the transition.
"What can I do? It's not my decision. And if this is it, at least I got the memory there," Craig said, pointing across the field where he saluted the supporters sections. "I still had the players. We were still a team in the end. Everyone here tonight saw those guys wanted it in the end."