Atlanta overwhelms Minnesota United FC’s home opener

Published 8:27 am Monday, March 13, 2017

Minnesota United’s inaugural MLS home game was fittingly played in the snow.

The Loons have had quite the cold welcome to the league.

Josef Martinez had three goals, Miguel Almiron scored twice and Atlanta United quickly spoiled fellow expansion club Minnesota’s home opener with a 6-1 victory Sunday that matched the coldest game in MLS history with a kickoff temperature of 20 degrees.

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The scarf-bundled crowd at the University of Minnesota football stadium, where the Loons will play until their soccer-specific stadium is finished in nearby St. Paul, was announced at 35,043 but dwindled to significantly lower than that down the stretch.

“The only positive that we can take from today is the people who braved the elements to come out,” Minnesota coach Adrian Health said. “I thought their support was incredible, and it’s just a pity that we couldn’t give them any type of performance that warrantied the support that we got.”

Jacob Peterson subbed in the 84th minute and scored the last goal in injury time for Atlanta, which joined MLS this season with Minnesota for the league’s 21st and 22 teams. Atlanta was coming off a 2-1 loss at home to the New York Red Bulls in its opener last week.

This was the ninth game in league history played in snow, but only the second time the special orange ball was used for better visibility. The action was stopped several times so the grounds crew could clear end lines and goal lines with leaf blowers.

Kevin Molino scored for the Loons, who lost 5-1 at Portland last week in their opener and became the first MLS team to allow five-plus goals in consecutive games. Atlanta built its side more aggressively than the long-term approach Minnesota took. The difference was clear, unlike the weather.

“It’s difficult circumstances, but it’s part of the game. That is why the game is 90 percent mental,” said Molino, a Trinidad native who had never before played in snow and only once previously felt such conditions in his life.

He flashed the only smile apparent afterward in the Loons’ locker room when asked about the snow experience.

“I find it a little difficult,” Molino said, “but after a while I come to terms with it.”

Players from Minnesota’s professional soccer past , representing the Kicks, Strikers, Thunders and Stars, were honored before the game. The Dark Clouds fan club packed the metal bleachers behind the east net and did its best to keep the spirits up with chants and songs, but Martinez’s goal in just the third minute of play put a damper on the party that started at the Surly brewery one light-rail stop away.