- Associated Press - Sunday, March 12, 2017

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) - Josef Martinez had a hat trick and Miguel Almiron scored twice as Atlanta United quickly spoiled fellow expansion club Minnesota’s snowy home opener with a 6-1 victory Sunday that matched the coldest game in MLS history with a kickoff temperature of 20 degrees Fahrenheit (-6 Celsius).

The scarf-bundled crowd at the University of Minnesota football stadium, where the club will play until its soccer-specific stadium is finished in nearby St. Paul, was announced at 35,043 but dwindled to significantly lower than that.

“The only positive that we can take from today is the people who braved the elements to come out,” Minnesota coach Adrian Health said. “I thought their support was incredible, and it’s just a pity that we couldn’t give them any type of performance that warrantied the support that we got.”

Kevin Molino scored the only goal for Minnesota, which lost 5-1 at Portland last week and has become the first MLS team to allow five-plus goals in consecutive games.

Atlanta, which joined MLS this season with Minnesota for the league’s 21st and 22 teams, was coming off a 2-1 loss at home to the New York Red Bulls in its opener last week.

In other MLS matches Sunday, David Villa scored two goals in New York City’s 4-0 win over D.C. United and Diego Chara scored in the eighth minute to help Portland hold off undermanned Los Angeles 2-1 to win for the first time away from home since beating the Galaxy on Oct. 8, 2015.

The Minnesota-Atlanta was the ninth game in league history played in snow, but only the second time the special orange ball was used for better visibility. The action was stopped several times so the grounds crew could clear end lines and goal lines with leaf blowers.

“It’s difficult circumstances, but it’s part of the game. That is why the game is 90 percent mental,” said Molino, a Trinidad native who had never before played in snow and only once previously felt such conditions in his life.

He flashed the only smile apparent afterward in the Loons’ locker room when asked about the snow experience.

“I find it a little difficult,” Molino said, “but after a while I come to terms with it.”

Players from Minnesota’s professional soccer past , representing the Kicks, Strikers, Thunders and Stars, were honored before the game. The Dark Clouds fan club packed the metal bleachers behind the east net and did its best to keep the spirits up with chants and songs, but Martinez’s goal in just the third minute of play put a damper on the party.

“Team chemistry is something that comes with time as well, and we’re a new team with many new players, but there’s no excuses today because 6-1 at home is just not good enough,” Minnesota defender Vadim Demidov said.

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