Atlanta United outlast Minnesota United as both teams endure bitter cold

MINNEAPOLIS -- There is cold, and then there is weather that can only be described as bone-chilling.

At TCF Bank Stadium on Saturday for the Minnesota United FC match against Atlanta United FC, it was decidedly the latter.

A game that started at 22 degrees Fahrenheit at kickoff dipped to 16 by the time the final whistle blew. With a cold wind whipping around the field at 10 to 20 miles per hour, it felt even colder.

Even with such extreme conditions, neither team felt they had the edge with the cold.

“It’s not easy to play in that,” Atlanta goalkeeper Brad Guzan said after the game. “Both teams had to endure the conditions.”

Minnesota’s Ethan Finlay agreed, even though his team had the home advantage: “Both teams are playing in it. It’s cold.”

Beyond the mere cold, Finlay explained, the wind affected the trajectory of the ball, deadening and making crosses harder.

The game changed early, with Atlanta going ahead in the third minute after Francisco Calvo’s own goal off a corner kick. After Atlanta went down a player late in the first half when Leandro Gonzalez Pirez picked up his second yellow card, the visitors bunkered, giving up possession to keep their shape and load defenders in the box.

That strategy worked. Minnesota had 70 percent of the possession, but that only led to three shots on goal on the night. With their opponents ceding much of the field but fighting hard in the final third, Minnesota were forced to resort to long balls that struggled to find teammates in the cold and windy conditions.

Atlanta United head coach Tata Martino reiterated the belief that the weather didn't favor either team and, “we each had to adapt to that.”

In his postgame press conference, Minnesota United head coach Adrian Heath was asked if the cold changed the Loons' game plan. 

“No it didn’t. It should have made [the players] run around a little bit more,” he quipped.

While it might not have changed Minnesota’s tactics, the cold still got to Heath on the sideline. “I don’t think I’ve known this cold, for a long, long time, if ever.”

Second-half Minnesota substitute Christian Ramirez concurred with his coach.

“It’s always tough especially in this cold to figure out how to stay active, stay warm. I came out a little bit late from the second half because I was warming up my shoes,” he admitted.

Describing the experience of coming on after sitting on the bench for the first 60 minutes, “I couldn’t really feel anything. So I was just trying to be an active body in the box.”

On the winning side, Guzan had a more positive spin on the extreme weather.

“It was windy. It was cold. But at the end of the day, three points is all that matters,” he said.