Ten months after Minnesota United last played a game at Allianz Field, there’s one big beneficiary from the long pandemic pause that ended with Friday’s restart of its regular season there:
Allianz Field’s newly installed, sophisticated system experienced drainage issues that damaged parts of the field in the stadium’s inaugural season. One night, then-LA Galaxy superstar Zlatan Ibrahimovic threw a chunk of turf back into a large divot he made during a sliding tackle.
The original grass was removed in September and replaced with new turf from a Wisconsin sod farm three weeks before the Loons lost a first-round playoff game, their first ever.
Friday’s game against Sporting Kansas City was their first game on that grass since October, after their scheduled March 15 home opener against New York Red Bulls was canceled and MLS suspended its season for the next four months after just two weeks played.
The field has been pampered since last fall. Loons coach Adrian Heath called it “in absolutely magnificent condition” during a Wednesday video call with reporters.
Veteran midfielder Ethan Finlay considered it “definitely much improved.”
“Obviously, it wasn’t quite up to the standard that we all hoped,” Finlay said on Wednesday. “It’s the one thing that’s positive that has come out of this long delay and not having a home game in almost 10 months. It looked good. It felt good. It’s unfortunately people will only see it on television. We were pinging it around yesterday on the pitch. Guys were buzzing about it.”
Famed Argentina club Boca Juniors tweeted farewell and good luck Friday evening to attacking midfielder Emanuel “Bebelo” Reynoso, who is headed to Minnesota for a physical examination and signature that will complete his transfer.
“I’d be incredibly disappointed if it doesn’t happen,” Heath said after Friday’s game. “The kid wants to come. We want him. Everything has been agreed. But nothing has been officially signed yet. That has to be done.”
Meanwhile, recently signed French defender Bakaye Dibassy is due into Minnesota as well. Both players will go through a quarantine period before they get on the field with their new team.
Starters Romain Metanire and Kevin Molino returned to the top 11 Friday after they missed the final games in the MLS is Back Tournament in Orlando.
Starter Robin Lod was designated a substitute, and Hassani Dotson started because Lod suffered what Heath called a “bad bang” on his calf in practice Tuesday. Lod was a second-half sub Friday.
Goalkeeper Greg Ranjitsingh started his third MLS game and first with the Loons in place of Tyler Miller, who underwent hip surgery on Wednesday and is out for the season. The team recalled keeper Dayne St. Clair on loan from San Antonio FC in USL Championship, but he was unavailable Friday while he went through quarantine. Homegrown keeper Fred Emmings was the backup Friday.