Minnesota United attacker Darwin Quintero dipped back into the Loons’ oval-shaped dressing room inside Allianz Field after their 3-3 draw with New York City FC on Saturday. The star Colombian midfielder did so briefly to show his young son the brand new space.
“Muy bonita,” Quintero said in Spanish. “Very pretty.”
While the St. Paul stadium was brand new to the sellout crowd of 19,796 in its the inaugural game, it was the second business visit for Loons players, coaches and sporting staff. United trained on the soft Kentucky bluegrass on April 3 and was forced to cancel a second session Thursday because of a surprise spring snowstorm.
“We don’t have any advantage,” fullback and captain Francisco Calvo said. “… But this day is done. We know that we have Galaxy coming here, and I’m pretty sure that game is going to be so different.”
The Loons will need to find a home-field feel after dropping two points in a draw against further winless NYCFC (0-1-5). After a 7 p.m. kickoff at Toronto FC, Minnesota (3-2-1) will have five of its next six games at Allianz Field through May 25.
Grass stains, tape and turf on boots turned the dressing room dirty. From Quintero to the defense, it wasn’t often pretty. There was blood shed on the field, from Ike Opara’s forehead and Michael Boxall’s smashed nose. It was gritty, but guile ran out as the Loons gave up goals (again).
United needs to correct its defensive issues immediately with the attacking threats Toronto’s Jozy Altidore and Alejandro Pozuelo will pose on a short week.
Against New York —which was scoreless in the two previous games, a first since its expansion season in 2015 — Minnesota allowed three goals in a free-flowing game that irked coach Adrian Heath.
“I’m sure for the neutral it was an entertaining game,” Heath said. “But not too good for both the coaches, I wouldn’t have thought. They game was too open for my liking, and we gave away three poor goals really. They didn’t have to work hard enough for the goals. For us to come out of the game with something, I’m pleased for that.”
Part of the helter-skelter nature of the game was the amped-up nature the players felt to perform on the the historic stage. “You’re looking at players running into spots where they shouldn’t do, and I think that’s a lot getting caught up in the day,” Heath said.
United is now conceding 1.8 goals per game — which is close enough to the record-setting rate in 2017 and 2018. It gave up 2.05 goals per game as an expansion franchise in ’17 and 2.08 in ’18 — the worst combined mark in MLS history.
“It’s a disappointment,” Heath said. “But it’s a point, and you should never ever underestimate one point.”
The Loons also could be without their best center back, Opara, who exited the game after a scary head-to-head collision with New York’s Valentin Castellanos in the 82nd minute. Opara was subbed off, received stitches on his forehead, and with a history of concussions, he’ll be more closely monitored this week.
The Loons’ No. 2 center back, Boxall, had a nightmare scenario on NYCFC’s first goal. Goalkeeper Vito Mannone was trying to play out of the back when he passed to Boxall, who then had a bad turnover to Anton Tinnerholm.
Making matters worse, Boxall didn’t get in front of Castellanos’ scoring chance seconds later, which made it 1-1. Boxall put his head in his hands and then onto his knees as he dealt with his play. Trying to make a play later, Boxall smashed his nose into Castellanos’ head in the 22nd; he stayed in the game.
NYCFC’s second goal came as Ismael Tajouri-Shradi’s first shot deflected off Ozzie Alonso, but he stuck with it to finish the rebound and take a 2-1 lead. New York’s third goal came when Tajouri-Shradi’s in-swinging free kick glanced of Calvo’s foot and into the net. Of the Loons’ 11 goals allowed this season, five have come on set pieces.
As United didn’t feel friendly confines Saturday, others were checking out the digs. U.S. Soccer representatives surveyed the land ahead of the men’s national team’s Gold Cup opener there against on June 18. And the City Football Group — which oversees NYCFC, Manchester City in the English Premier League and five other clubs around the world — gushed about the amenities of the Loons’ new grounds as they look to build their own in New York.