Minnesota United players and coaches toured their new 19,400-seat Allianz Field Tuesday for the first time since its completion and the early reviews came in after Wednesday’s training in Blaine:
“Amazing,” – Loons midfielder Miguel Ibarra.
“Blown away, fantastic,” – veteran defender Brent Kallman.
“Incredible. It’s beautiful. It’s built for soccer. It’s tight. It’s without a doubt the best in the league.” -- assistant coach Mark Watson.
Players checked out their individual stalls in their very own locker room, decorated with a Loon image that starts on the carpeted floor and transitions up one wall.
Watson, new goalkeeper Vito Mannone and others walked to the top of the supporters’ section and marveled at the standing rails and aluminum flooring that will accommodate 2,800 loud, fanatical fans.
“I walked in that section, where it’s very steep,” said Mannone, whose Instagram photo of the team's locker room is posted above. “It’s going to create a massive wall and our fans going to push us from there.”
You could say that spectators’ section is something of a, well, Wonderwall.
“We walked all the way around,” Mannone said. “The quality of view is amazing. Everyone is looking forward.”
Mannone played much of the last 13 years in England’s Premier League, where the smallest stadiums match Allianz Field’s size while its biggest range from 52,000 to 90,000 capacity.
“Sometimes when a stadium is well-made, 20,000 is going to feel like 40,000,” Mannone said. “This one pretty much looks like that.”
Kallman first chased on a soccer ball on fields surrounding Bailey Elementary School when he was four years old and growing up in Woodbury.
“It’s a long way from there to here,” he said, referring to chasing a ball now in a $240 million stadium.
He has played in MLS’ best and biggest stadium, including ones opened just last season in Los Angeles and Washington, D.C.
“I imagine ours is going to be No. 1,” Kallman said. “I’ll come back to you on that when we get people in there and we have our first game.”
That, of course, is April 13 against New York City F.C. after United opens its season with five consecutive games on the road. They’re 2-0 after the first two, at Vancouver and San Jose.
United wrapped up its Blaine training for the week on Wednesday before the team fliesThursday morning to Los Angeles for Saturday’s game against the Galaxy.
Some more of this and that from Wednesday training:
- United’s Romario Ibarra (Ecuador), Francisco Calvo (Costa Rica), Rasmus Schuller (Finland), Jan Gregus (Slovakia) and Romain Metanire (Madagascar) all are headed toward play with each player’s national team after Saturday’s game. United requested a bye week for next week to accommodate this international window.
- United coach Adrian Heath was out for a second consecutive day because of an oral infection and needed dental surgery.
“You know, he’s good,” Watson said. “He’s better. We missed him here, but from what we’ve heard this morning he’s on the mend. Hopefully, he’ll back very soon.”
Watson took control of the whistle again, but said he expected Heath to coach Saturday.
“It’s business as usual,” Watson said. “We have a way of doing things. Nothing really changes. Adrian’s not here with his voice, but we continue with the same plan.”
- Veteran midfielder Ozzie Alonso returned for the training session after he rested during Tuesday’s. It’s maintenance Heath has said the team will use regularly to keep Alonso, at age 33, healthy and well.
“Just managing workload,” Watson said. “See how he feels coming out of the weekend and manage things accordingly. There hasn’t been much adjustment. He wants to train.”
- Striker Angelo Rodriguez continues to train toward full fitness. He has come off the bench for starter Romario Ibarra in the first two games on his way back from a lingering groin injury during preseason.
“He’s getting close,” Watson said. “I know he’s itching to play. We’ve built up his workload the last couple of weeks when we can. We’ve been trying to do a little extra to get him up to full fitness as quick as possible.”
- Midfielder Kevin Molino has done full contact training sessions on his way back from knee surgery early last season. “He’s getting there,” Watson said. “He’s getting closer.”