Loons Offer First-Rate Fan Experience and Dramatic Victory
Even before a pair of ultra-dramatic plays clinched a significant 1-0 victory for Minnesota United over FC Dallas Saturday, we were having a great time on our first trip to their brand new Allianz Field in St. Paul. And I nearly caught a soccer ball!
Getting to the field was simple using light rail. I had a great dinner from a food truck just outside the stadium and security was quick and simple. My guest and I walked around the concourse to scope things out and settled into our seats right behind one of the goals. I felt right on top of the field and it appears that any seat there is a good one.
During warm ups balls were flying into the stands. A guy caught one a section to our left and a ball smashed into a seat a few feet to our right blowing up a guy's beer. I knew we'd have to pay attention to the action. No looking at cell phones here. In fact a couple of times I tried to check out a quick score of the Twins' game and almost missed a big play.
Soccer is all about flow, a fan to my right said. The clock doesn't stop. The action resumes quickly on balls out of play. Although several times when a ball flew high into the stands, play halted until that ball was returned rather than a spare ball being put into play.
Like any other sporting event, fans all around us knew more than the referee, the coaches and the players. It's a hoot listening to fans holler during games. I do it too.
I had heard about the Wonder Wall, a group of fans who stand throughout the match cheering, singing, pounding drums and waving flags. What an awesome spectacle. It adds such great atmosphere to the game.
Both teams had great scoring chances and those opportunities developed quickly. The pace and ball skill displayed were fantastic. But the score remained deadlocked 0-0 through full time. Then the Loons scored in the 91st minute on a rebound shot by Mason Toye and the stadium rocked. A short time later, a Dallas player was fouled in the penalty box. After a video review, Dallas lined up for a penalty kick right in front of us. Minnesota goalkeeper Vito Mannone blocked it for the save-of-the-year and the stadium erupted.
The usual fan interaction of singing and dancing along to songs on the video monitor, along with cute kids in the crowd are part of the fan experience. Replays are shown as well, but the action continues on the pitch.
I attended one Loons' game when they played at TCF Bank Stadium at the University of Minnesota and had a fun time there as well. But seeing the Loons in their own stadium is a true treat that I will indulge in again.
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