An occasion as unique as Allianz Field’s debut Saturday delivered a game very much the same, Minnesota United’s entertaining but ultimately unsatisfying 3-3 tie with New York City FC.
United welcomed a shiny new day in the state’s soccer history by saying hello to its new $250 million stadium in front of 19,796 fans. It did so with a game that offered a kaleidoscope of color and sound, a frantic pace and one point gained for the home team.
“It was cool, man,” said United veteran defender Brent Kallman, who grew up 10 miles away in Woodbury. “Super loud, the fans were incredible. Awesome atmosphere. It feels like they’re right on top of the game. I think that kind of adrenaline really showed in the game.”
It showed in a pace that provided five goals in the game’s first 32 minutes alone and just one the rest of the way — in the second half.
The Loons took a 3-2 lead into halftime on an NYCFC own goal in the 32nd minute that was unlike most any you’ll see. The tying goal, in the 64th minute, came on an NYCFC free kick that nicked United defender Francisco Calvo’s leg.
United scored the first goal in the stadium’s history with 13 minutes gone and then allowed two in barely two minutes shortly thereafter, thanks to a game pace that United coach Adrian Heath called “too open.”
United’s third first-half goal went in after New York keeper Sean Johnson tried to shift the ball from one foot to the other to handle a long ball played back to him as United’s Angelo Rodriguez bore down. But the ball rolled into his own goal.
“I have, more on TV or a blooper reel,” United midfielder Ethan Finlay said when asked if he’d seen a goal quite like that. “But honestly, you have to credit that to the pressure of our guys up front.”
Afterward, Calvo simply called the game “weird.”
Attribute a lot of that to the afternoon’s emotion and energy and anticipation that had been weeks, months and, for some, years in the making. United also celebrated the return of Darwin Quintero from a groin injury on the same afternoon longtime Loon Miguel Ibarra (hamstring) couldn’t play.
“We wanted it to be a special day for everybody,” Heath said. “It has been a great day. Pretty much relieved it is out the way and now we can concentrate on doing what we do, which is playing football. … I’m glad it’s over. I’m glad we didn’t lose. I thought our supporters were magnificent. I thought the noise in the stadium was incredible, and it bodes for better times ahead, I think.”
The afternoon began with a flyover by two Blackhawk helicopters and an elegant national anthem performance. MLS Commissioner Don Garber, U.S. soccer officials, mayors and rapper Slug from the Minneapolis hip-hop duo Atmosphere were among the dignitaries who came to an architectural jewel envisioned by United owner Bill McGuire and Kansas City stadium designer Populous.
“As good as you can be with a tie,” McGuire said afterward when asked how he was doing on such an awaited day. “I hate ties.”
Supporters arrived four hours early, some carrying banners and some even a tune as well. A few carried canisters that produced a bluish fog. Most everybody wore scarves — a soccer tradition that also proved helpful on a windy, 40-degree day — to cheer their United, which returned home after starting the season with five road games (3-2).
They sang, chanted and cheered, saving the Bronx variety for Johnson, the NYCFC keeper, for the duration after his own goal.
Afterward, Finlay — born in Duluth, raised in Marshfield, Wis. — was asked if the day was everything he thought it’d would be.
“It was better,” Finlay said. “This probably will be the only time in my career to do what we did today: Open up a new stadium and be part of that. It was special. I had hairs on back of my neck standing up as we came out of that tunnel for — you can’t even say 90 minutes, it was 98-99 minutes if you include stoppage time. It was a special day.”