By Aeden Evenson-McDermott
On the evening of the home opener at Allianz Field, the Loons and Red Bulls would duel it out in the snowy conditions Saturday night. With the field having a good covering of snow, and the snow coming down during pregame and into the first half, the field became slippery and slick in many places. The grounds crew were using leaf blowers to dust away the snow in the goal keeper boxes while the rest of the field was nearly covered.
With the MLS season in full force, and already in its third week for most clubs, the Loons would be coming off a bye week. It allowed for players to rest up and recover from a couple early knocks and injuries. Players like Luis Amarilla would also finalize his paperwork for his green card as he is a Paraguayan International. With an open training session last week, which brought much enjoyment to an excited fan base, players did different ball drills and worked out to get the final preparations ready.
The previous week, which kicked off the MLS season for most clubs (not LAFC or LA Galaxy due to the inclement weather), had the Loons take on FC Dallas on the road. The Loons were successful and accomplished the task of picking up all 3 points after an early goal in the second half from Mender Garcia, which led to the final score of 1-0 for the Loons.
With the Loons turning the next page in the past two weeks, Snowy Allianz Field would captivate the attention of many as it would bring back memories of the snowy homeopeners in the early years of Minnesota United FC a few years back.
Both sides would kick off when the referee blew the whistle. It was primarily a test of how the sides would adapt to the pitch being covered with snow and how this would transfer to how they would play. The wintry conditions also made the usual matchball get a change as they used the orange winter variant of the Upcoming Women’s World Cup Ball, so it would be easier to see in the snow.
Red Bulls would wear their traditional red and white kits and the Loons would finally debut their long awaited Northern Lights kit which is stunning.
Striker Bongokuhle Hlongwane would get a nice shot and would retrieve the rebound to power his big shot into the back of the net. An early 1-0 lead to the Loons but would they be able to sustain it?
With both sides exchanging a few chances, and with many poor calls by the officials, it was a slow first half despite Hlongwane’s goal.
With a lot of the snow still on the pitch, groundskeepers were actively working at halftime to clear away the snow as it had still been piled up. As the second half moved on, the snow would stop coming down and also the fields melted off, but it was still slippery in places with slush being an issue. It was nice to see the green field at least!
The second half would start out in flying fashion with the Red Bulls getting a quick equalizer to put it back to 1-1! The ball from the corner kick, taken by Red Bulls John Tolkin, meandered its way to the jumping head of Andres Reyes which required a split second snap of the head to guide the ball into the back of the net, which even MNUFC goalkeeper Dayne St.Clair’s fast reflexes stood no chance.
New York would show more dominance and create some decent chances and United would as well, but both sides could not get the breakthrough for the win and +3 points.
A hard worked game by both sides saw New York get their second draw of the season and the Loons now with a win and a tie.
New York will face the Columbus Crew in Red Bull Stadium while the Loons will travel to face Colorado. Both games are on this coming Saturday and are available along with every other MLS game to stream on Apple TV+.
It will be a big week for teams as they train and work on getting the chemistry better. It’s also important to note, from a Minnesota United perspective, that the club is in active negotiations and are progressing in talks to sign young South Korean player Jeong Sang-bin as a U-22 Initiative signing. He was developed in the Korean league and then went to Wolverhampton and they sent him on loan in the 21/22 season to Grasshoppers in the Swiss top flight league.
We are in desperate need of another striker, as getting goals will be hard this year, as we don’t have the striking force needed to be a top mainstream team. Hopefully, the addition of Jeong Sang-bin will be vital in getting more goals and provide an extra depth piece to the existing roster!