For the third time in seven seasons, Minnesota United's home opener was played in snow. It wasn't nearly as cold as the infamous World Cup qualifier between the USMNT and Honduras at Allianz Field in February of last year, but Saturday's 30-degree weather and continuous flurries made for a sticky layer of snow outside of the well-maintained 18-yard boxes.
The conditions make for a memorable outing for match-going fans and a fascinating viewing experience for those at home, but the play out on the pitch suffers greatly when the orange ball is effectively packed into a snowball as it rolls around the midfield.
When the U.S. beat Honduras 3-0 in Minnesota's subzero conditions, they did so with three set-piece goals. It should come as no surprise then that MNUFC and the New York Red Bulls played to a 1-1 draw with both goals coming off corner kicks — there's really no way of scoring from open play when the ball is moving slower than the players.
So you do understand why coaches and players absolutely hate these games in St. Paul, but what can be done about it? The Loons waited until Matchday 3 for their home opener, but this winter is on record as one of the top 10 snowiest in Twin Cities history. There's nothing "unprofessional" about not being able to control low pressure systems, but that's what Red Bulls manager Gerhard Struber thought.
The Austrian coach wondered why the Allianz Field grounds crew didn't expand their snow-clearing process outside of the areas.
I love that the @allianzfield grounds crew is out here blowing the snow in shorts. #LosLoons #MNUFC #legionofloons pic.twitter.com/3mqOolPp5Q— Old Man Zathras (@TZath) March 12, 2023
"I have absolutely no understanding," Struber told reporters after the match. "It's under-18, a youth team moment when I was so surprised when I got outside and I cannot see green (grass) — whatever the reason for that. But this is very, very unprofessional. I have a completely different expectation how this should play in this league, on this level.
"Everyone here has the responsibility to get the snow away. It wasn't a half meter snow or a meter snow; this was only (a few centimeters). This would be possible to get the snow away. I think when I look to Austria, and I'm (an) Austrian man, and we know how we handle snow. We sometimes have much more snow and we can handle that. But I have absolutely no understanding that we play (in these) circumstance at an MLS professional competition. I think both teams don't deserve that. This was not a big promotion for the league."
The Red Bulls manager wasn't alone in his complaints. Minnesota United head coach Adrian Heath said he "was disappointed there was so much snow on the field."
The snow blowing off the roof here at @allianzfield has been sort of epic in the first half. Aurora snowealis ❄️❄️❄️❄️ pic.twitter.com/b71PQSrSv3— Brian Quarstad (@IMSoccerNews) March 12, 2023
The best post-match reaction came from Minnesota goalscorer Bongokuhle Hlongwane. The 22-year-old South African was pleased with his first goal of the campaign but not overjoyed with the weather.
"No, it's my first time. I wasn't happy, but I played. It is my job so I have to respect it," Hlongwane said. "I thought I was ready until I saw the field and then I was, 'No, no, no no.' (Franco) Fragapane asked me, 'Did you check the weather?' No, I didn't."
When asked which is worse, the cold or the snow, Hlongwane said, "Everything. I say everything."
"Cause it gets cold like Minnesota"From close range, it's Bongokuhle Hlongwane in the snow at Allianz Field! ❄️ pic.twitter.com/SIyVWKbZO0
— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) March 12, 2023
Minnesota travels to Colorado next Saturday where the weather forecast currently calls for 44 degrees and sunshine.