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Minnesota United has a pet rock

Helicopters fly over during the national anthem before the start of a game between New York City and Minnesota United at Allianz Field in St. Paul on April 13, 2019. David Berding / USA TODAY Sports

ST. PAUL -- The pomp and circumstance of Allianz Field’s opening game had powerful engineering, beautiful harmonies and the seemingly mundane.

There was a Blackhawk helicopter flyover, a national anthem aided by a Minnesota Orchestra brass ensemble, and a rock.

Yup, a rock.

Minnesota United and New York City players walked past this gray boulder mounted on a stand as they exited the tunnel and took the field for the pregame ceremony on April 13.

This rock has the weight of a few things: a nod to Minnesota’s heritage, the corporate-speak of a “brand activation” and possibly trappings of a new Loons tradition.

United’s crest of a Loon silhouette has 11 feathers for the amount of a team’s players on the field, as well as the North Star, a blue stripe for the Mississippi River and a gray background to symbolize the Iron Range.

United has brought these elements into its new St. Paul stadium. There’s the LED lights to remind of the Northern Lights, the Loons wing incorporated into seat colors on its East stand, with one red seat to represent the bird’s eye. A military veteran will be honored during each game and then sit in that seat’s prime spot near the midfield touchline.

But back to that rock: It’s a piece of taconite mined by U.S. Steel’s operations on the Iron Range in northern Minnesota.

“Every soccer stadium in the world has its own traditions,” United CEO Chris Wright said. “We’re hoping that this develops into a tradition with our players. Like paying respect to the Iron Range and the backbone of Minnesota, it also is staking a claim to having a real backbone and strength of character as a club.”

Alonso as captain

United coach Adrian Heath said defensive midfielder Ozzie Alonso probably will be the Loons’ captain against the Los Angeles Galaxy on Wednesday at Allianz Field.

Francisco Calvo will relinquish that leadership duty for at least one game after his red card at the end of Minnesota’s 4-3 loss to Toronto on Friday. Calvo and central midfielder Jan Gregus, who also received a red card, are suspended for Wednesday’s match.

“Ozzie doesn’t say an awful lot, but what he does, he means, and it resonates with people when he speaks,” Heath said of Alonso, who was a longtime captain for the Seattle Sounders.

“It would mean a lot, coming here with the new team,” Alonso said. “They give me a lot of responsibility. It’s going to be great for me.

“I will do what is best to bring the team together and give my leadership to win the game. … You can miss a goal, you can miss a pass, but if you fight and play and you give everything to bring the team together, the team will respond. You have to lead by example.”

Briefly

Center back Ike Opara (head injury) and midfielder Miguel Ibarra (hamstring) will be available to play Wednesday.

Ibarra, Kevin Molino (knee) and Abu Danladi, who is able to now play 90 minutes, will give Heath a variety of attacking options as the Loons play three home games in the next 11 days.

Heath said on his SKOR North radio show Monday that the club considered an appeal of Gregus’ red card, but were talked out of it.

United’s loan of Collin Martin to Hartford Athletic is for the 2019 season, the club said Tuesday, but United recalls the right to bring back the central midfielder based on the first team’s needs.

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