On a day of such ceremony and celebration with Allianz Field’s opening, Minnesota United coach Adrian Heath is playing the part of pragmatist.
Fans arrived early to gather at the Great Lawn on the soccer-specific stadium’s north side and partake of live entertainment and food-truck fare while they awaited the gates opening early at 1:30 p.m. for the 4 p.m. start against New York City FC.
Check back about 3 p.m. for today's lineups.
With all the fanfare, Heath has reminded his players – if he needed to – that three points are at stake after the Loons started the season 3-2 while playing five consecutive road games.
“There’s going to be so much going on,” Heath said. “The hard part is we can’t get caught up in the emotion of what everything is. For us, this has to be about the game and we have to treat it as such. We’ve spoken to players about 'let’s just concentrate on the most important thing for us,' which is the game. I know it’s going to be a special day, but we can make it even more special by going out and giving a big performance and winning the game.
“That’s solely my thought this week. The club and everybody can do all the stuff they want to do, but we just have to concentrate and try to win the game.”
He said he doesn't want another day like the franchise's first game two years in their inaugural season at TCF Bank Stadium. The Loons lost 5-1 to fellow expansion team Atlanta United that day.
Heath has a decision to make about today’s lineup, with star Darwin Quintero back at training this past week after he missed last Saturday’s victory at New York Red Bulls.
Heath is contemplating keeping the same starting 11 that delivered last week’s well-earned victory and whether Quintero is completely ready to go on a day when longtime Loon Miguel Ibarra is out.
Ibarra won't play on such a big day because of a hamstring injury sustained two weeks ago at New England. Quintero injury his groin during United’s first practice at Allianz Field two weeks ago.
Heath notes that Quintero not only missed the Red Bulls game but he was out of the country for nearly two weeks over the team’s bye week to finalize his green card.
“It’s hard when somebody does what Darwin does on the field, but the team has to come first,” Heath said. “Because ultimately, 11 is always beating one. But we’ve got a special one and he has proven that. We have to weigh if he is 100 percent fit. Now he feels a lot better this week, but obviously it’s not something you treat lightly when you’ve got a guy like him.
“The thing about having a good group, we have strength and depth. We have better players all around. We have to make sure we actually make sure everybody is 100 percent because we do have who can contribute.”