Seven months have passed since Minnesota United opened TCF Bank Stadium for its inaugural MLS season. The snowy match was the league's coldest-ever game at 19 degrees and drew a season-high 35,043 fans.
Ahead of United's last home match of the year Saturday against Sporting Kansas City where the team honored its fans, the club anticipated its fourth consecutive lower-bowl sellout and sixth consecutive crowd of more than 20,000. And it was nearly 50 degrees warmer than that first outing.
Loons coach Adrian Heath said the home opener showed him a lot about Minnesota's soccer fans.
"To see so many people in the stadium in the weather conditions that there were, virtually every one of them stayed until the end, so that was a real test to me of what our fans have got," Heath said. "I think the 'Wonderwall' thing [where fans sing the Oasis song after a victory] has grown to the extent that I have people from other clubs ringing me and thinking how cool it is."
Center back Brent Kallman said he has been impressed with how the fan base has grown from the days playing in the North American Soccer League.
"Our gameday experience and the atmosphere of our game is as good as anywhere in MLS, 100 percent," Kallman said. "They've done a really good job. Our atmosphere is great, and I think it's tough for teams to come and play in Minnesota."
Martin making moves
Midfielder Collin Martin has played in only 10 matches with six starts this season, but five of those starts have come in the most recent five matches alongside veteran Ibson. The 22-year-old struggled with confidence early this season, according to Heath, but more playing time has helped with that.
"He's grown. I've said all the way through that I don't think we've ever doubted his ability," Heath said. "The kid's got all the basic requirements for a modern-day midfield player. He's athletic. He's got really good feet. He's a really good passer of the ball. He's got a little bit of bite in him."
Heath said the next step in Martin's development is making him "fitter and stronger."
Once, twice, four times
United has faced Kansas City four times this year, three in the league and once in the U.S. Open Cup, and that's likely going to be an annual occurrence.
"We better get used to seeing them a lot because it's going to be a game that we have a lot every season," Kallman said. "We're probably going to play them in the Open Cup most years. I think it's a bit of a natural rivalry."