PORTLAND TIMBERS vs. MINNESOTA UNITED FC
Providence Park | Portland
03.03.17 | MLS Week 1 | Game 1
8:30 p.m. CT
You only get once chance to make a first impression, and this is Minnesota United’s chance. When they face off against the Portland Timbers at 8:30 pm CT at Providence Park in Portland, they’ll not only be opening their inaugural season, it will be the first match of the entire MLS season. At the very least, they should feel familiar with Providence Park after playing three matches there in the preseason, drawing all three.
Following those draws, Minnesota United dropped a pair of matches in Orlando, falling 3-0 to Toronto FC and 2-0 to San Antonio FC. Against San Antonio, Minnesota dominated possession for a majority of the opening half, but the Loons failed to hit the target on any of their long efforts. San Antonio scored late in the first half off a free kick following a yellow card. In the second half, MNUFC created opportunities off crosses that went begging, and once again it was San Antonio scoring late on the counterattack to finish it off.
Despite the draws and losses, defender Vadim Demidov is optimistic about the work the team’s already put in. “We've worked with a team spirit,” he said after practice on Tuesday. “Of course, we're a new team, so a lot of new faces, but I think we have something good going on. But we'll see on Friday. Friday's our exam. We're going to put in a hundred percent effort for Friday.”
The match on Friday will be the two clubs’ first competitive match against each other since 2010, when they faced off in the USSF D2 league prior to the Timbers joining MLS. Against Portland in the preseason, Minnesota was able to get off to an early 2-0 lead thanks to a brace from Johan Venegas, but the Timbers rallied in the final minutes to earn a draw. Portland will be seeking redemption after just missing out on the MLS Cup Playoffs last season, while Minnesota will be trying to meet Head Coach Adrian Heath’s expectations.
“I want to win every game I play,” said Heath with a smile. “That's not going to happen, but I'm going to go into every game that we play fully confident. My glass is always half-full. I always think we can achieve what people don't think we can achieve. The one thing we know we can count on before the ball's kicked is that every time they put a Minnesota shirt on, everything they've got is going to be left out on the field. I'm not accepting anything else. Never have done and never will do.”
Although the team as a whole is new to MLS, Minnesota has brought on several veterans of the league, including midfielder Collen Warner, who knows the team will likely have to play through some early jitters.
“I'm sure guys will be a bit nervous,” he said. “When there's a crowd like that, it's a special occasion. At the beginning of the game they'll probably throw the kitchen sink at us, so it'll be on us to calm down the crowd, to play past a bit of early pressure. You know, go in with that 'away' mentality where you've got to get through the first 15 minutes and then settle into the game.”
Tickets are still available for Minnesota United’s home opener on March 12 at TCF Bank Stadium against fellow expansion side Atlanta United. Be there for the beginning as MNUFC embarks on its inaugural MLS season. Fans who want to catch every home match can join the Itasca Society. Over 10,000 season tickets have already been sold, rapidly approaching the inaugural season limit of 11,842 members in this exclusive club — one for every lake in Minnesota. A portion of all proceeds from these season tickets are donated to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources’ Loon Monitoring program. Both season tickets and tickets for the home opener are available now at MNUFC.COM or by calling 763.4SOCCER.