So that’s what Minnesota United coach Adrian Heath means when he wants his team to play what he calls “off the front foot?”
It’s a phrase he says often and one with which his team complied in Wednesday’s 2-0 victory over Austin FC.
Heath wanted his Loons to give the first full Allianz Field crowd in 612 days — announced a sellout at 19,209 — something to cheer about.
They did so by playing off that front foot, which implies it forced depleted, expansion Austin FC to play off its collective back foot if you follow the soccer vernacular for pushing forward and taking the game to the opponent.
They did so also with newcomers Franco Fragapane and Adrien Hunou scoring both goals before everyone had found a place to park again and waited in line at the turnstiles.
Heath called it a “sign of things to come.”
When it was over, the Loons remained undefeated in their past five games — at 3-0-2 — after they started the season 0-4. They also clasped hands afterward and ran toward a packed supporters’ section as fans sang their hearts out to Oasis’ “Wonderwall.”
Loons veteran defender Michael Boxall sprayed water from a bottle and lifted his young daughter Maxwell, who had walked onto the field at game’s end.
Fragapane called the tradition “something beautiful” and “something new because the truth is, I’m not accustomed to it. But it was beautiful to see the fans sing and lift their flags up, every single one.” He spoke in Spanish through an interpreter.
Heath considered Wednesday’s game its most complete and its most important.
“I told the players that before the game, that we need to keep this run going,” Heath said.
Twelfth in the 13-team Western Conference mere days ago, the Loons now are ninth.
Heath called all those supporters “magnificent,” the atmosphere “fantastic” and he credited them with lifting his team.
“It has been a great night,” he said afterward. “They started up with the singing and got the players going again. What it shows you is what supporters mean for this game. It’s a completely different game. It’s a different sport when you’ve got 20,000 people in the building supporting you.”
The Loons’ 0-4 start included a 1-0 home loss to Austin FC on May 1.
BOXSCORE: Minnesota United 2, Austin FC 0
The club designated Wednesday’s game as its annual “Pride” night. Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz appeared at a free pregame vaccination clinic on the stadium’s “Great Lawn” and wore a Loons scarf.
Season-ticket holders, wait-list members and the general public filled Allianz Field with song and drumming, with swaying banners and canned smoke coming from the jam-packed Wonderwall at the stadium’s south end.
They hadn’t done so since the franchise’s first playoff game, a loss to L.A. Galaxy two seasons ago. The Loons’ biggest home audience in the COVID-19-interrupted 2020 season was 250 family, friends and staff. They opened this season playing their first four home games in front of audiences limited to 4,100.
That all changed Wednesday.
Fragapane scored his second goal in two games since Saturday’s MLS debut at FC Dallas, finishing off defender Romain Metanire’s hard work after he bumped Metanire’s crossing pass to his right foot for a nifty two-touch goal.
Hunou scored his first MLS goal eight minutes later, heading Fragapane’s corner kick past Austin FC goalkeeper Brad Stuver while Loons star Emanuel Reynoso temporarily was off the field seeking medical attention.
Austin played without captain Alex Ring, a late scratch, as well as injured defender Ben Sweat and former Loons striker Aaron Schoenfeld.